Skip to main content

Full text of "The voyage of the Rattletrap"

See other formats













lOmo, Cloth, Ornamental, $1 00. 

The scenes and situations that are so ingeniously 
created by the author from an inventive fancy that 
defies restraint are so highly amusing and absurd as to 
compel the laughter of a hardened saturnine. There is 
no let-up to the flow of his impulsive humor and rollick 
ing drollery. The reader who once begins has to keep 
on, Boston Courier. 



Copyright, 1897, by HARPER & BROTHERS. 

All nghti reserved. 









RIVER. . 32 












MAP . Frontispiece 










HATS ; 50 

ROBE .... 55 












THE CAREFUL CORN OWNER . . . . . . . .121 



TION ...... 137 









OLD "BLENTY VATERS" ......., 193 


"WELL! WELL! WELL!" . 203 




PERHAPS we were pretty big boys Jack and 
I. In fact, I m afraid we were so big that we 
haven t grown much since. But Ollie was a 
boy, anyhow ; he couldn t have been more than 
a dozen years old, and we looked* upon him as 
being a very small boy indeed ; though when 
folks saw us starting off, some of them seemed 
to think that we were as boyish as he, because, 
they said, it was such a foolish thing to do ; 
and in some way, I m sure I don t know how, 
boys have got the reputation of always doing 
foolish things. "They re three of a kind," 
said Grandpa Oldberry, as he watched us weigh 
anchor; " their parents oughter be sent fer." 

Well, it s hard to decide where to begin this 


true history. We didn t keep any log on this 
voyage of the Rattletrap. But I ll certainly 
have to go back of the time when Grandpa 
Oldberry expressed his opinion ; and perhaps I 
ought to explain how we happened to be in 
that particular port. As I said, we Jack and 
I were pretty big boys, so big that we were off 
out West and in business for ourselves, though, 
after all, that didn t imply that we were very 
old, because it was a new country, and every 
body was young ; after the election the first 
fall it was found that the man who had been 
chosen for county judge wasn t quite twenty- 
one years of age yet, and therefore, of course, 
couldn t hold office ; and we were obliged to 
wait three weeks till he had had his birthday, 
and then to have a special election and choose 
him again. Everybody was young except Grand 
pa Oldberry and Squire Poinsett. 

But I was trying to account for our being in 
the port of Prairie Flower. Jack had a cheese- 
factory there, and made small round cheeses. 
I had a printing-office, and printed a small 
square newspaper. In my paper I used to 
praise Jack s cheeses, and keep repeating how 
good they were, so people bought them ; and 


Jack used, once in a while, to give me a cheese. 
So we both managed to live, though I think 
we sometimes got a little tired of being men, 
and wished we were back home, far from thick 
round cheeses and thin square newspapers. 

One evening in the first week in September, 
when it was raining as hard as it could rain, 
and when the wind was blowing as hard as it 
could blow, and was driving empty boxes and 
barrels, and old tin pails, and wash-boilers, and 
castaway hats and runaway hats and lost hats, 
and other things across the prairie before it, 
Jack came into my office, where I was setting 
type (my printer having been blown away, 
along with the boxes and the hats), and after 
he had allowed the rain to run off his clothes 
and make little puddles like thin mud pies on 
the dusty floor, he said : 

" Fm tired of making poor cheeses." 

"Well," I answered, "Fm tired of printing 
a poor newspaper." 

"Let s sell out and go somewhere," contin 
ued Jack. 

" All right," I said. " Let s." 

So we did. 

Of course the Rattletrap wasn t a boat which 


sailed on the water, though I don t know as I 
thought to mention this before. In fact, a 
water boat wouldn t have been of any use to us 
in getting out of Prairie Flower, because there 
wasn t any water there, except a very small 
stream called the Big Sioux River, which wan 
dered along the prairie, sometimes running in 
one direction and sometimes in the other, and 
at other times standing still and wondering if 
it was worth while to run at all. The port of 
Prairie Flower was in Dakota. This was when 
Dakota was still a Territory, three or four 
years, perhaps, before it was cut into halves 
and made into two States. So, there being no 
water, we of course had to provide ourselves 
with a craft that could navigate dry land ; 
which is precisely what the Rattletrap was 
namely, a "prairie schooner." 

"I ve got a team of horses and a wagon," 
went on Jack, that rainy night when we were 
talking. "You ve got a pony and a saddle. 
We ve both got guns. When we drive out of 
town some stray dog will follow us. What 
more 11 we want ?" 

"Nothing," I said, as I clapped my stick 
down in the space-box. " We can put a can- 


vas cover on the wagon and sleep in it at night, 
and cook our meals over a camp-fire, and and 
have a time/ 

" Of course a big time. It s a heavy spring- 
wagon, and there is just about room in it be 
hind the seat for a bed. We can put on a 



cover that will keep out rain as well as a tent, 
and carry a little kerosene-oil stove to use for 
cooking if we can t build a fire out-doors for 
any reason. We can take along flour, and 
and and salt, and other things to eat, and 
shoot game, and and and have a time." 

We became so excited that we sat down and 
talked till midnight abopt it. By this time 
the rain had stopped, and when we went out 
the stars were shining, and the level ground 
was covered with pools of water. 

"If it was always as wet as this around 
here we could go in a genuine schooner," 
said Jack. 

" Yes, that s so. But what shall we call our 
craft ?" 

"I think Rattletrap would be a good 
name," said Jack. 

" I don t think it s n very pretty name," I 

" You wait till you get acquainted with that 
wagon, and you will say it s the best name in 
the world, whether it s pretty or not. You 
don t know that wagon yet. The tongue is 
spliced, the whiffletrees are loose, the reach is 
cracked, the box is tied together with a rope, 


the springs creak, the wheels wabble, lean dif 
ferent ways, and never follow one another." 

"Do they all turn in the same direction ?" 
I asked. 

"I don t believe they do. It would be just 
like one to turn backward while the other 
three were going forward." 

"We ll call our craft the Rattletrap, then. 

"Good -night," said Jack; and we parted, 
each to dream of our approaching cruise. 

In a week we were busy getting ready to 
start. I found, when I looked over the wagon 
as it stood back of the cheese-factory, that it 
was much as Jack had described it, only I 
noticed that the seat as well as the springs 
creaked, and that a corner was broken off the 
dash-board. But we set to work upon it with a 
will. We tightened up the nuts and screws all 
over it, and wound the broken pole with wire. 
AVe nailed together the box so that the rope 
could be taken off, and oiled the creaking 
springs. We had no trouble in finding a top, 
as half the people in the country had come in 
wagons provided with covers only a year or so 
before. We got four bows and attached them 



to the box, one at each end, and the other two 
at equal distances between. These bows were 
made of hard- wood, and were a quarter of an 
inch thick and an inch and a half wide. They 


ran up straight on either side for two or three 
feet, and then rounded over, like a croquet- 
wicket, being high enough so that as we stood 
upright in the wagon - box our heads would 
just nicely clear them. Over this skeleton we 
stretched our white canvas cover, and tied it 
down tightly along the sides. This made what 
we called the cabin. There was an ample flap 


in front, which could be let down at night and 
fastened back inside during the day. At the 
rear end the cloth folded around, and was 
drawn together with a " puckering - string," 
precisely like a button-bag. By drawing the 
string tightly this back end could be entirely 
closed up ; or the string could be let out, and 
the opening made any size wanted. After the 
cover was adjusted we stood oif and admired 
our work. 

" Looks like an elephant on wheels," said 

"Or an old-fashioned sun-bonnet for a giant 
ess," I added. 

"Anyhow, I ll wager a cheese it 11 keep out 
the rain, unless it comes down too hard," said 
Jack. "Now for the smaller parts of our rig 
ging, and the stores." 

On the back end we fastened a feed-box for 
the horses, as long as the wagon-box was wide, 
and ten or twelve inches square, with a partition 
in the middle. We put stout iron rings in the 
corners of this, making a place to tie the horses. 
On the dash-board outside we built another 
box, for tools. This was wedge-shaped, about 
five inches wide at the top, but running down 


to an. inch or two at the bottom, and had a 
hinged cover. We put aboard a satchel con 
taining the little additional clothing which we 
thought we should need. Things in this line 
which did not seem to be absolutely necessary 
were ruled out indeed, for the sake of light 
ness we decided to take just as little of every 
thing that we could. We made another box, 
some two feet long, a foot deep, and fourteen 
inches wide, with a hinged cover, which we 
called the "pantry," for our supply of food. 
This we stood in the wagon with the satchel. 
Usually in the daytime after we started each of 
these rode comfortably on the bed back of the 
seat. This bed was a rather simple affair, made 
up of some bed-clothing and pillows arranged 
on a thick layer of hay in the bottom of the 
wagon-box. Our small two-wick oil-stove we 
put in front next to the dash-board, a lantern 
we hung up on one of the bows, and a big tin 
pail for the horses we suspended under the 

"Since you re going to be cook," I said to 
Jack, "you tend to getting the dishes to 

" They ll be few enough," he answered. "I 


don t like to wash em. Tin mostly, I guess ; 
because tin won t break." 

So lie put a few knives and forks and spoons, 
tin plates and cups,, a frying-pan, a small cop 
per kettle, and a few other utensils in another 
box, which also found a home on the bed. 
Other things which we did not forget were a 
small can of kerosene; two half -gallon jugs, 
one for milk and one for water; a basket for 
eggs ; a nickel clock (we called it the chro 
nometer) ; and in the tool-box a hatchet, a 
monkey-wrench, screw - driver, small saw, a 
piece of rope, one or two straps, and a few nails, 
screws, rivets, and similar things which might 
come handy in case of a wreck. 

"Now for the armament and the life-boat/ 
said Jack. 

For armament Jack contributed a double- 
barrelled shot-gun and a heavy forty-five-calibre 
repeating rifle, and I a light forty-four-calibre 
repeating rifle, and a big revolver of the same 
calibre (though using a slightly shorter car 
tridge), with a belt and holster. This revolver 
we stored in the tool-box, chiefly for use in 
case we were boarded by pirates, while the 
guns we hung in leather loops in the top of the 


cover. In the tool-box we put a good supply 
of ammunition and plenty of matches. We 
also each carried a match-box,, a pocket com 
pass, and a stout jack-knife. 

"Now, how s your life-boat ?" asked Jack. 

I led her out. She was a medium -sized 
brown Colorado pony, well decorated with 
brands, and with a white face and two white 
feet. She wore a big Mexican saddle and a 
horse-hair bridle with a silver bit. 

"She ll do," said Jack. "In case of wreck, 
we ll escape on her, if possible. She ll also be 
very handy in making landings where the harbor 
is poor, and in exploring unknown coasts." 

All of this work took several days, but when 
it was done the Rattletrap was ready for the 
voyage, and we decided to start the next morn 

"She s as prairie -worthy a craft as ever 
scoured the plain," was Jack s opinion; "and 
if we can keep the four wheels from starting in 
opposite directions we ll be all right." 

But where was Ollie all this while ? And 
who was Ollie, anyhow ? Ollie was Jack s lit 
tle nephew, and he lived back East somewhere 
I don t remember where. The nearer we got 



ready to start, the more firmly Jack became 
convinced that Ollie would like to go along, so 


at last he sent for him to come, and he arrived 
the night before our start. Ollie liked the 


idea of the trip so much that he simply stood 
and looked at the wagon, the guns, the pony, 
and the horses, and was speechless. At last he 
managed to say : 

te Uncle Jack, it ll be just like a picnic, 
won t it ?" 

The next morning we started as early as we 
could. But it was not before people were up. 

" Where be they going ?" asked Grandpa 

" Oh, Nebraska, and Wyoming, and the 
Black Hills, and any crazy place they hear 
of," answered Squire Poinsett. 

"They ll all be scalped by Injuns/ said 
Grandpa Oldberry. "Ain t the Injuns bad 
this fall ?" 

" So I was a-reading," returned the Squire. 
" And in the hills I should be af eared of b ar." 

" Right/ assented Grandpa. " B ar and 
sim lar varmints. And more specially hoss- 
thieves and sich-like cutthroats. I disremem- 
ber seeing three scalawags starting off on such 
a fool trip since afore the war." 



THE port of Prairie Flower was in the east 
ern part of the Territory of Dakota. It stood 
out 011 an open plain a half-dozen miles wide,, 
which seemed to be the prairie itself, though 
it was really the valley of the Big Sioux River, 
that funny stream which could run either way, 
and usually stood still in the night and rested. 
To the east and west the edges of this valley 
were faintly marked by a range of very low 
bluffs, so low that they were mere wrinkles in 
the surface of the earth, and made the valley 
but very little lower than the great plain which 
rolled away for miles to the east and for leagues 
to the west. 

It was a beautiful morning a little after the 
middle of September that the Rattletrap got 
away and left Prairie Flower behind. The sun 
had been up only half an hour or so, and the 


shadow of our craft stretched away across the 
dry gray plain like a long black streak without 
end. The air was fresh and dewy. The morn 
ing breeze was just beginning to stir, and down 
by the river the acres of wild sunflowers were 
nodding the dew off their heads, and beginning 
to roll in the first long waves which would keep 
up all day like the .rolling of the ocean. We 
shouted " Good-bye " to Grandpa Oldberry and 
Squire Poinsett, but they only shook their 
heads very seriously. The cows and horses 
picketed on the prairie all about the little 
clump of houses which made up the town 
looked at us with their eyes open extremely 
wide, and no doubt said in their own languages, 
like Grandpa Oldberry, that they had no recol 
lection of seeing any such capers as this for 
many years. 

" See here/ I said, suddenly, to Jack, 
" where s that dog you said was going to fol 
low us ?" 

"You just hold on," answered Jack. 

" Oh, are we going to have a dog, too ?" 
asked Ollie. 

" You wait a minute," insisted Jack. 

Just then we passed the railroad station. 


Jack craned his head out of the front end of 
the wagon. Ollie and I did the same. Lying 
asleep on the corner of the station platform 
we saw a dog. He was about the size of a 
rather small collie ; or, to put it another way, 
perhaps he was half as big as the largest-size 
dog. If dogs were numbered like shoes, from 
one to thirteen, this would have been about a 
No. 7 dog. He was yellow, with short hair, 
except that his tail was very bushy. One ear 
stood up straight, and the other lopped over, 
very much wilted. Jack whistled sharply. 
The dog tossed up his head, straightened up 
his lopped ear, let fall his other ear, and looked 
at us. Jack whistled again, and the dog came. 
He ran around the wagon, barked once or twice, 
sniffed at the pony s heels and got kicked at for 
his familiarity, yelped sharply, and came and 
looked up at us, and wagged his bushy tail 
with a great flourish. 

"He wants to get in. Give him a boost, 
Ollie," said Jack. 

Ollie clambered over the dash-board and 
jumped to the ground. He pushed the dog 
forward, and he leaped up and scrambled into 
the wagon, jumped over on the bed, where he 


folded his head and tail on his left side, turned 
around rapidly three times, and lay down and 
went to sleep, one ear up and one ear down. 

"He s just the dog for the Rattletrap," said 
Jack. " We ll call him Snoozer." 

" That looks a good deal like stealing to me, 
Uncle Jack/ said Ollie. "Doesn t he belong 
to somebody ?" 

"No," said Jack, "he doesn t belong to any 
body but us. He came here a week ago with 
a tramp. The tramp deserted him, and rode 
away on the trucks of a freight train; but 
Snoozer didn t like that way of travelling, be 
cause there wasn t any place to sleep, so he 
stayed behind. Since then he has tried to fol 
low every man in town, but none of them 
would have him. He s a regular tramp dog, 
not good for anything, and therefore just the 
dog for us." 

Snoozer was the last thing we shipped, and 
after taking him aboard we were soon out of 
the harbor of Prairie Flower, and bearing away 
across the plain to the southwest. In twenty 
minutes we were among the billowing sunflow 
ers, standing five or six feet high on either 
side of the road, which seemed like a narrow 



crack winding through them. Ollie reached 
out and gathered a handful of the drooping 
yellow blossoms. The pony was tied behind, 
carrying her big saddle, and tossing her head 


about, and showing that she was very suspi 
cious of the whole proceedings, and especially 
of a small flag which Ollie had fastened to 
the top of the wagon-cover, which fluttered in 


the fresh morning breeze. Snoozer slept on 
and never stirred. At last the road came to 
the river, and then followed close along beside 
its bank, which was only a foot or so high. 
Ollie was interested in watching the long grass 
which grew in the bottom of the stream and 
was brushed all in one direction by the slug 
gish current, like the siJky fur of some animal. 
After a while we came to a gravelly place which 
was a ford, and crossed the stream, stopping 
to let the horses drink. The water was only 
a foot deep. As we came up on the higher 
ground beyond the river we met the south 
wind squarely, and it came in at the front of 
the cover with a rush. We heard a sharp flut 
ter behind, and then the wagon gave a shiver 
and a lurch, and the horses stopped ; then 
there was another shock and lurch, and it 
rolled back a few inches. 

"There," exclaimed Jack, "some of those 
wheels have begun to turn backward ! I told 
you !" 

I looked back. Our puckering -string had 
given way, and the rear of the cover had blown 
out loosely. This had been more than the 
pony could stand, and she had broken her rope 


and run back a dozen rods, where she stood 
snorting and looking at the wagon. 

" First accident I" I cried. " She ll run home, 
and we ll have to go back after her." 

" Perhaps we can get around her/ * said Jack. 
"We ll try." 

We left Ollie to hold the horses, and I went 
out around among the sunflowers, while Jack 
stood behind the wagon with his hat half full 
of oats. I got beyond her at last, and drove 
her slowly toward the wagon. She snorted 
and stamped the ground angrily with her for 
ward feet ; but at last she ventured to taste of 
the oats, and finding more in the feed-box on 
the rear of the wagon, she began eating them 
and forgot her fright. 

"I guess we d better not tie her, but let her 
follow," said Jack. "As soon as we have gone 
a little ways she ll come to think the wagon is 
home, and stick to it." 

" Yes," I said. " I think she is really as great 
a tramp as Snoozer, and just the pony for us." 

" Are we all tramps ?" asked Ollie. 

"Well," said Jack, "I m afraid Grandpa 
Oldberry thinks we don t lack much of it. He 
says varmints will catch us." 


" Do you think they will ?" went on Ollie, 
just a little bit anxiously. 

"Oh, I guess not/ said Jack. " You see, 
we ve got four guns. Then there s Snoozer." 

" But will they try to catch us ?" 

" Well, I don t know. Grandpa Oldberry 
says the varmints are awfully thick this fall." 

" But what are varmints ?" 

" Oh, wolves, and b ars, and painters, and 

"What are painters?" 

" Grandpa means panthers, I guess. Then 
there s Injuns, and hoss-thieves, and 

" There s a prairie-chicken !" I cried, as one 
rose up out of the long grass. 

"Perhaps we can get one for dinner," said 

He took his gun and went slowly toward 
where the other had been. Another whirred 
away like a shot. Jack fired, but missed it. 
We started on, leaving the pony tossing her 
head and stamping her feet in a great passion 
on account of the report of the gun ; but when 
she saw that we paid no attention to her and 
were rapidly going out of sight she turned, 
after taking a long look back at distant Prairie 
Flower, and came trotting along the road, with 


her stirrups dangling at her sides, and soon 
was following close behind. 

Before we realized it the chronometer showed 
that it was almost noon. By this time we had 
left the sea of sunflowers and crept over the 
wrinkle at the western edge of the valley, and 
were off across the rolling prairie itself. Still 
Snoozer never stirred. 

" I wonder when he ll wake up ?" said Ollie. 

"You ll see him awake enough at dinner 
time/ said Jack. 

" Well, you ll see me awake enough then, 
too," answered Ollie. "I m hungry." 

"We hardy pioneers plunging into the track 
less waste of a new and unexplored country 
never eat but one meal a day," said Jack. 
And that s always raAv meat b ar-meat, gen 

"Well," said Ollie, "I don t see any b ar- 
meat, or even prairie - chicken - meat. Why 
didn t you hit the prairie-chicken, Uncle Jack ?" 

" I m not used to shooting at such small 
game," answered Jack, solemnly. " My kind 
of game is b ar b ar and other varmints." 

Just then we passed a house, and down a 
little way from it, close to the road, was a well. 


" Kerens a good place to have dinner," said 
Jack ; so we drove out by the side of the road 
and stopped. " If I m to be cook/ said Jack 
to me, "then you ve got to take care of the 
horses and do all the outside work. Fll be 
cook ; you ll be rancher. That s what we ll 
call you rancher." 

I unhitched the horses, tied them behind 
the wagon, and gave them some oats and corn 
in the feed-box. The pony I fed in the big tin 
pail near by. The grass beside the road was 
so dry, and it was so windy, that we decided it 
was not safe to build a fire outdoors, so Jack 
cooked pancakes over the oil - stove inside. 
These with some cold meat he handed out to 
Ollie and me as we sat on the wagon-tongue, 
while he sat on the dash-board. We were 
half-way through dinner when we heard a 
peculiar whine, followed by a low bark, in 
the wagon, and then Snoozer leaped out, 
stretched himself, and began to wag his tail 
so fast that it looked exactly like a whirling 
feather duster. We fed him on pancakes, 
and he ate so many that if Jack had not 
fried some more we d have certainly gone 


" I told you he was a true tramp," said Jack. 
" Just see his appetite I" 

After we had finished, and the horses had 
grazed about on the dry grass some time, we 
started on. We hoped to reach a little lake 
which we saw marked on the map, called Lake 
Lookout, for the night camp ; so we hurried 
along, it being a good distance ahead. All the 
afternoon we were passing between either great 
fields where the wheat had been cut, leaving 
the stubble, or beside long stretches of prairie. 
There were a few houses, many of them built 
of sod. Not much happened during the after 
noon. Ollie followed the example of Snoozer, 
and curled up on the bed and had a long nap. 
We saw a few prairie-chickens, but did not try 
to shoot any of them. The pony trotted con 
tentedly behind. Just before night I rode her 
ahead, looking for the lake. I found it to be a 
small one, perhaps a half-mile wide, scarcely 
below the level of the prairie, and generally 
with marshy shores, though on one side the 
beach was sandy and stony, with a few stunted 
cottonwood-trees, and here I decided we would 
camp. I went back and guided the Rattletrap 
to the spot. Soon Jack had a roaring fire go- 


ing from the dry wood which Ollie had col 
lected. I fed the horses and turned them 
loose, and they began eagerly on the green 
grass which grew on the damp soil near the 
lake. The pony I picketed with a long rope 
and a strap around one of her forward ankles, 
between her hoof and fetlock, as we scarcely 
felt like trusting her all night. Snoozer got 
up for his supper, and after that stretched 
himself by the fire and blinked at it sleepily. 
The rest of us did much the same. After a 
while Ollie said : 

" I think that bed in the wagon looks pretty 
narrow for two. How are three going to sjeep 
in it ?" 

"I don t think three are going to sleep in 
it," said Jack. 

" Where are you going to sleep, then, Uncle 
Jack ?" 

. Jack laughed. "I think," he said, " that 
the rancher and the cook will sleep in the 
wagon, and let you sleep under the wagon. 
Nothing makes a boy grow like sleeping rolled 
up in a blanket under a wagon. You ll be six 
inches taller if you do it every night till we get 


"Well, I don t think so/ said Ollie, just a 
little alarmed at the prospect. "Fd prefer to 
sleep in the wagon. Maybe wfrat Grandpa 
Oldberry said about wild animals is so. You 
say you like to shoot em, so you stay outside 
and do it I don t." 

At last it was arranged that Ollie and I 
should sleep inside and Jack under the wagon. 
We were surprised to find how early we were 
ready for bed. The long ride and the fresh 
air had given us an appetite for sleep. So we 
soon turned in, the dog staying outside with 

" Good-night, Uncle Jack !" called Ollie, as 
we put out the lantern and covered up in the 
narrow bed. " Look out for painters !" 

I was almost asleep when Ollie shook me, 
and whispered, "What s that noise ?" 

I listened, and heard a regular, hollow, boom 
ing sound, something like the very distant dis 
charge of cannon. 

" It s the horses walking on the ground- 
always sounds that way in the night," I an 

Again I was almost asleep when Ollie took 
hold of my arm, and said, * What s that ?" 



I once more listened, and recognized a pe 
culiar creaking noise as that made by the 
horses cropping off the grass. I explained to 
Ollie, and then dropped off sound asleep. I 



don t know how long it was, but after some 
time I was again roused up by a nervous 

"Listen to that" whispered Ollie. "What 
can it be ?" 

I sat up cautiously and listened. It was a 


strange, rattling, unearthly sound, which I 
could not account for any better than Ollie. 

" It s a bear/ 7 he whispered. " I heard them 
make that noise at the park back home." 

I was puzzled, and concluded that it must 
be some wild animal. I took down one of the 
guns, crept softly to the front end of the wag 
on, raised the flap, and looked out. The wind 
was still, and \he night air met my face with a 
cool, damp feeling. The moon had just risen 
and the lake was like silver. I could see the 
horses lying asleep like dark mounds. But the 
mysterious noise kept up, and even grew loud 
er. I grasped the gun firmly, and let myself 
cautiously out of the front end of the wagon. 
Then I climbed back in less softly and hung 
up the gun. 

"Wh-what is it?" asked Ollie, in a faint 

" It s your eloquent Uncle Jack snoring," I 
said. " He s one of Grandpa Oldberry s sim lar 



OUR first night in the Rattletrap passed 
without further incident that is, the greater 
part of it passed, though Ollie declared that it 
lacked a good deal of being all passed when 
we got up. The chief reason for our early rise 
was Old Blacky, a member of our household 
(or perhaps wagonhold) not yet introduced in 
this history. Old Blacky was the mate of Old 
Browny, and the two made up our team of 
horses. Old Browny was a very well-behaved, 
respectable old nag, extremely fond of quiet and 
oats. He invariably slept all night, and usually 
much of the day ; he was a fit companion for 
our dog. It was the firm belief of all on board 
that Old Browny could sleep anywhere on a 
fairly level stretch of road without stopping. 

But Old Blacky was another sort of beast. 
He didn t seem to require any sleep at all. 


What Old Blacky wanted was food. He loved 
to sit up all night and eat, and keep us awake. 
He seldom even lay down at night, but would 
moon about the camp and blunder against 
things, fall over the wagon-tongue, and other 
wise misbehave. Sometimes when we camped 
where the grass was not just to his liking he 
would put his head into the wagon and help 
himself to a^mouthful of bedquilt or a bite of 
pillow. He was little but an appetite mounted 
on four legs, and next to food he loved a fight. 
Besides the name of Old Blacky, we also knew 
him as the Blacksmith s Pet ; but this will 
have to be explained later on. 

On this first morning, just as it was becoming 
light in the east, Old Blacky began to make his 
toilet by rubbing his shoulder against one corner 
of the wagon. As he was large and heavy, and 
rubbed as hard as he could, he soon had the 
wagon tossing about like a boat ; and as the 
easiest way out of it, we decided to get up. It 
was cool and dewy, with the larger stars still 
shining faintly. We found Jack under the 
wagon. Ollie stirred him up, and said : 

" See any varmints in the night, Uncle 
Jack ?" 


" Yes," answered Jack, as he unrolled him 
self from his blanket. " Or at least I felt one. 
That disgraceful Old Blacky nibbled at my ear 
twice. The first time I thought it was nothing 
less than a bear/ 

"Did he disturb Snoozer ?" 

"I guess nothing ever disturbs Snoozer. He 
never moved all night. How s the firewood 
department, Ollie ?" 

" All right/ replied Ollie. " Got up enough 
last night/ 

"Then build the fire while I get break 

This pleased Ollie, and he soon had a good 
fire going. I caught Old Blacky, who had 
started off to walk around the lake, woke up 
Old Browny, who was sleeping peacefully with 
his nose resting on the ground, quieted the 
pony, who was still suspicious, with a few pats 
on the neck, and gave them all their oats. 
Soon the rest of us also had our breakfast, in 
cluding Snoozer, who seemed to wake up by 
instinct, and after waiting a little for somebody 
to come and stretch him, stretched himself, 
and began waving his tail to attract our atten 
tion to his urgent need of food. 


"Before we get back home that dog will 
want us to feed him with a spoon/ said Jack. 

It was only a little while after sunrise when 
we were off for another day s voyage. We were 


headed almost due south, and all that day and 
the three or four following (including Sunday, 
when we stayed in camp), we did not change 
our general direction. We were aiming to 


reach the town of Yankton, where we intended 
to cross the Missouri River and turn to the 
west in Nebraska. The country through which 
we travelled was much of it prairie, but more 
was under cultivation, and the houses of settlers 
were numerous. The land on which wheat or 
other small grains had been grown was bare, 
but as we got farther south we passed great 
fields of corn, some of it standing almost as 
high as the top of our wagon-cover. 

For much of the way we were far from rail 
roads and towns, and got most of our supplies 
of food from the settlers whose houses we 
passed or, indeed, sighted, since the pony 
proved as convenient for making landings as 
Jack had predicted she would. Ollie usually 
went on these excursions after milk and eggs 
and such like foods. The different languages 
which he encountered among the settlers some 
what bewildered him, and he often had hard 
work in making the people he found at the 
houses understand what he wanted. There 
were many Norwegians, and the third day we 
passed through a large colony of Russians, saw 
a few Finns, and heard of some Icelanders who 
lived around on the other side of a lake. 


"It wouldn t surprise me," said Ollie one 
day, "to find the man in the moon living here 
in a sod house." 

Perhaps a majority certainly a great many 
of all these people lived in houses of this 
kind. Ollie had never seen anything of the 
sort before, and he became greatly interested 
in them. The second day we camped near one 
for dinner. 

"You see," said Jack, "a man gets a farm, 
takes half his front yard and builds a house 
with it. He gains space, though, because the 
place he peels in the yard will do for flower 
beds, and the roof and sides of his house are 
excellent places to grow radishes, beets, and 
similar vegetables." 

" Why not other things besides radishes and 
beets ?" asked Ollie. 

"Oh, other things would grow all right, but 
radishes and beets seem to be the natural 
things for sod-house growing. Yon can take 
hold of the lower end and pull em from the 
inside, you know, Ollie." 

"I don t believe it, Uncle Jack," said Ollie, 

"Ask the rancher," answered Jack. "If 


you re ever at dinner in a sod house, and want 
another radish, just reach up and pull one 
down through the roof, tops and all. Then 
you re sure they re fresh. I d like to keep a 
summer hotel in a sod house. I d advertise 
fresh vegetables pulled at the table. " j 

"I m going to ask the man about sod houses," 
returned Ollie. He went up to where the owner 
of the house was sitting outside, and said : 

"Will you please tell me how you make a 
sod house ?" 

"Yes," said the man, smiling. "Thinking 
of making one ?" 

"Well, not just now," replied Ollie. " But 
I d like to know about them. I might want to 
build one sometime," he added, doubtfully. 

" Well," said the man, "it s this way: First 
we plough up a lot of the tough prairie sod with 
a large plough called a breaking-plough, in 
tended especially for ploughing the prairie the 
first time. This turns it over in a long, even, 
unbroken strip, some fourteen or sixteen inches 
wide and three or four inches thick. We cut 
this up into pieces two or three feet long, take 
them to the place where we are building the 
house, on a stone -boat or a sled, and use 


them in laying up the walls in just about the 
same way that bricks are used in making a 
brick house. Openings are left for the doors 
and windows,, and either a shingle or sod roof 
put on. If it s sod, rough boards are first laid 
on poles, and then sods put on them like 
shingles. Fve got a sod roof on mine, you 

Ollie was looking at the grass and weeds 
growing on the top and sides of the house. 
They must have made a pretty sight when they 
were green and thrifty earlier in the season, 
but they were dry and withered now. 

"Do you ever have prairie -fires on your 
roofs ?" asked Ollie, with a smile. 

" Oh, they do burn off sometimes," answered 
the man. " Catch from the chimney, you 
know. Did you ever see a hay fire ?" 


"Come inside and I ll show you one." 

In the house, which consisted of one large 
room divided across one end by a curtain, Ollie 
noticed a few chairs and a table, and opposite 
the door a stove which looked very much like 
an ordinary cook^stove, except that the place 
for the fire was rather larger. Back of it stood 


a box full of what seemed to be big hay rope. 
The man s wife was cooking dinner on the 

" Here s a young tenderfoot," said the man, 
"who s never seen a hay fire." 

" Wish I never had/ answered the woman. 

The man laughed. "They re hardly as good 
as a wood fire or a coal fire/ he said to Ollie; 
"but when you re five hundred miles, more or 
less, from either wood or coal they do very 
well." The man took off one of the griddles 
and put in another "stick" of hay. Then he 
handed one to Ollie, who was surprised to find 
it almost as heavy as a stick of wood. "It 
makes a fairly good fire/ said the man. "Come 
outside and I ll show you how to twist it." 

They went out to a haystack near by, and 
the man twisted a rope three or four inches in 
diameter, and about four feet long. He kept 
hold of both ends till it was wound up tight ; 
then he brought the ends together, and it 
twisted itself into a hard two-strand rope in 
the same way that a bit of string will do when 
similarly treated. There was quite a pile of 
such twisted sticks on the ground. " You 
see/ said the man, "in this country, instead 


of splitting up a pile of fuel we just twist up 
one." Ollie bade the man good-bye, took an 
other look at the queer house, and came down 
to the wagon. 

" So you saw a hay-stove, did you ?" said 
Jack. "I could have told you all about em. 


I once stayed all night with a man who de 
pended on a hay-stove for warmth. It was in 
the winter. Talk about appetites ! I never 
saw such an appetite as that stove had for hay. 
Why, that stove had a worse appetite than Old 


Blacky. It devoured hay all the time, just as 
Old Blacky would if he could ; and even then 
its stomach always seemed empty. The man 
twisted all of the time,, and I fed it constantly.,, 
and still it was never satisfied." 

" How did you sleep ?" asked Ollie. 

" Worked right along in our sleep like Old 
Browny," answered Jack. 

The last day before reaching Yankton was 
hot and sultry. The best place we could find 
to camp that night was beside a deserted sod 
house on the prairie. There was a well and 
a tumble-down sod stable. There were dark 
bands of clouds low down on the southeastern 
horizon, and faint flashes of lightning. 

" It s going to rain before morning/ I said. 
"Wonder if it wouldn t be better in the sod 
house ?" 

We examined it, but found it in poor con 
dition, so decided not to give up the wagon. 
"The man that lived there pulled too many 
radishes and parsnips and carrots and such 
things into it, and then neglected to hoe his 
roof and fill up the holes," said Jack. " Be 
sides, Old Blacky will have it rubbed down 
before morning. When I sleep in anything 


that Old Blacky can get at, I want it to be on 
wheels so it can roll out of the way." 

We went to bed as usual,, but at about one 
o clock we were awakened by a long rolling 
peal of thunder. Already big drops of rain 
were beginning to fall. Ollie and I looked 
out, and found Jack creeping from under the 

"That s a dry-weather bedroom of mine/ 
he observed, "and I think I ll come up-stairs." 

The flashes of lightning followed each other 
rapidly, and by them we could see the horses. 
Old Browny was sleeping and Old Blacky eat 
ing, but the pony stood with head erect, very 
much interested in the storm. Jack helped 
Snoozer into the wagon, and came in himself. 
We drew both ends of the cover as close as 
possible, lit the lantern, and made ourselves 
comfortable, while Jack took down his banjo 
and tried to play. Jack always tried to play, 
but never quite succeeded. But he made a 
considerable noise, and that was better than 

The wind soon began to blow pretty fresh, 
and shake the cover rather more than was 
pleasant. But nothing gave way, and after, as 


it seemed, fifty of the loudest claps of thunder 
we had ever heard, the rain began to fall in 

" That is what I ve been waiting for," said 
Jack. " Now we ll see if there s a good cover 
on this wagon, or if we ve got to put a sod roof 
on it, like that man s house." 

The rain kept coming down harder and 
harder, but though there seemed to be a sort 
of a light spray in the air of the wagon, the 
water did not beat through. In some places 
along the bows it ran down on the inside of 
the cover in little clinging streams, but as a 
household we remained dry. Jack was still 
experimenting on the banjo, and the dog had 
gone to sleep. Suddenly a flash of lightning 
dazzled our eyes as if there were no cover at 
all over and around us, with a crash of thun 
der which struck our ears like a blow from a 
fist. Jack dropped the banjo, and the dog 
shook his head as if his ears tingled. We all 
felt dizzy, and the wagon seemed to be sway 
ing around. 

"That struck pretty close," I said. "I 
hope it didn t hit one of the horses." 

"If it hit Old Blacky, I ll bet a cooky it got 



the worst of it," answered Jack, taking up his 
banjo again. "Look out, Ollie, and maybe 
you ll see the lightning going off limping." 

It was still raining, though not so hard. 
Soon we began to hear a peculiar noise, which 
seemed to come from behind the wagon. It 
was a breaking, splintering sort of noise, as if 
a board was being smashed and split up very 

"Sounds as if a slow and lazy kind of light 
ning was striking our wagon/ said Jack. 

Ollie s face was still white from the scare 
at the stroke of lightning, and his eyes now 
opened very wide as he listened to the mys 
terious noise. Jack pulled open the back cov 
er an inch and peeped out. Then he said : 

" I guess Old Blacky s tussle with the light 
ning left him hungry ; he s eating up one side 
of the feed-box." 

Then we laughed at the strange noise, and 
in a few minutes, the rain having almost 
ceased, we put on our rubber boots and went 
out to look after the other horses. Old Browny 
we found in the lee of the sod house, not ex 
actly asleep, but evidently about to take a nap. 
The pony had pulled up her picket -pin and 


retreated to a little hollow a hundred yards 
away. We caught her and brought her back. 
By the light of the lantern we found that the 
great stroke of lightning had struck the curb 
of the well, shattering it, and making a hole 
in the ground beside it. The storm had gone 
muttering off to the north, and the stars were 
again shining overhead. 

" What a stroke of lightning that must have 
been to do that I" said Ollie, as he looked at 
the curb with some awe. 

"It wasn t the lightning that did that," 
returned his truthful Uncle Jack. "That s 
where Old Blacky kicked at the lightning and 
missed it." 

Then we returned to the wagon and went to 
bed. The next morning at ten o clock we 
drove into Yankton. We found the ferry-boat 
disabled, and that we should have to go forty 
miles up the river to Running Water before 
we could cross. We drove a mile out of town, 
and went into camp on a high bank overlook 
ing the milky, eddying current of the Missouri. 



WE were a good deal disappointed in not 
getting over into Nebraska, because we had 
seen enough of Dakota, but there was no help 
for it. A log had got caught in the paddle- 
wheel of the ferry-boat and wrecked it, and 
there was no other way of crossing. 

"Old Blacky could swim across," said 
Jack, "but Browny would go to sleep and 

It is rather doubtful, however, about even 
Blacky s ability to have swum the river, since 
it was a half - mile wide, and with a rather 
swift current. In the afternoon we walked 
back to Yankton and bought the biggest felt 
hats we could find, with wide and heavy leath 
er bands. We knew that we should now soon 
be out in the stock-growing country, and that, 
as Jack said, "the cowboys wouldn t have any 


respect for us unless we were top-heavy with 

We were camped on the high bank of the 
river, opposite a farm-house. It was getting 
dusk when we got back to the wagon, with 
our heads aching from our new hats, which 
seemed to weigh several pounds apiece. Jack, 



as cook, announced that there was no milk on 
hand, and sent Ollie over to the neighboring 
house to see if he could get some. Ollie re 
turned, and reported that the man was away 
from home, but that the woman said we could 
have some if we were willing to go out to the 
barn -yard and milk one of the cows. The 
others decided that it was my duty to milk, 
but I asked so many foolish questions about 
the operation that Jack became convinced 
that I didn t know how, and said he would do 
it himself. We all went over to the house, 
borrowed a tin pail from the woman, and went 
out to the yard. 

We found about a dozen cows inside, of 
various sizes, but all long-legged and long- 

" Must be this man belongs to the National 
Trotting -Cow Association/ said Jack, as he 
crawled under the barbed-wire fence into the 
yard. " That red beast over there in the cor 
ner ought to be able to trot a mile in less than 
three minutes." 

He cautiously went up to a spotted cow 
which seemed to be rather tamer than the 
rest, holding out one hand, and saying, " So, 


bossy," in oily tones, as if lie thought she was 
the finest cow he had ever seen. When he 
was almost to her she looked at him quickly, 
kicked her nearest hind-foot at him savagely, 
and walked off, switching her tail, and shak 
ing her head so that Ollie was afraid it would 
come off and be lost. 

Can t fool that cow, can I ?" said Jack, as 
he turned to another. But he had no better 
luck this time, and after trying three or four 
more he paused and said : 

" These must be the same kind of cows Hor 
ace Greeley found down in Texas before the 
war. When he came back he said the way 
they milked down there was to throw a cow 
on her back, have a nigger hold each leg, and 
extract the milk with a clothes-pin/ 

But at last he found a brindled animal in the 
corner which allowed him to sit down and be 
gin. He was getting on well when, without 
the least 1 warning, the cow kicked, and sent 
the pail spinning across the yard, while Jack 
went over backwards, and his new hat fell off. 
There was one calf in the yard which had been 
complaining ever since we came, because it had 
not yet had its supper. The pail stopped roll- 


ing right side up, and this calf ran over and 
put his head in it, thinking that his food had 
come at last. Jack picked himself up and ran 
to rescue the pail. The calf raised his head 
suddenly, the ^ail caught on one of his little 
horns, and he started off around the yard, un 
able to see, and jumping wildly over imaginary 
objects. Jack followed. A cow, which was per 
haps the mother of the calf, started after Jack. 
The family dog, hearing the commotion, came 
running down from the house and began to 
pursue the cow. This wild procession went 
around the yard several times, till at last the 
pail came off the calf s head, and Jack secured 
it. Then he picked up his hat, the brim of 
which another calf had been chewing, rinsed 
out the pail at the pump, and tried another cow. 
This time he selected the worst-looking one 
of the lot, but to the surprise of all of us she 
stood perfectly still, only switching him a few 
times with her tail. As soon as he got a couple 
of quarts of milk he stopped and came out 
of the yard. Ollie and I had, of course, been 
laughing at him a good deal, but Jack paid no 
attention to it. As we walked towards the 
house he said : 


"Well, there s one consolation : after all of 
that work and trouble, the woman can t pnt on 
the face to charge us for the milk." A mo 
ment later he said to her : "I ve got about two 
quarts ; how much is it ?" 

" Ten cents/ answered the woman. "Didn t 
them cows seem to take kindly to you ?" 

" Well, they didn t exactly crowd around me 
and moo with delight/ replied Jack, as he 
handed over a dime with rather bad grace. 

That evening a neighbor called on us as we 
sat about our camp-lire, and we told him the 
experience with the cows. 

" Puts me in mind of the time a fellow had 
over at the Santee Agency a year or so ago/ 
said our visitor. " There s a man there named 
Hawkins that s got a tame buffalo cow. Of 
course you might as well try to milk an earth 
quake as a buffalo. Well, one day a man came 
along looking for work, and Hawkins hired 
him. Milking -time came, and Hawkins sent 
the man out to milk, but forgot to tell him 
about the buffalo. The man was a little green, 
and it was sort of dark in the barn, and the 
first thing he tried to milk was the buffalo 
cow. She kicked the pail through the win- 



clow, smashed the stall, and half broke the 
man s -leg the first three kicks. He hobbled 
to the house, and says to Hawkins : ( Old man, 


that there high-shouldered heifer of yourn out 
there has busted the barn and half killed me, 
and I reckon I ll quit and go back East, where 
the cows don t wear sleigh -robes and kick with 
four feet at once. " 


Bright and early the next morning we got 
off again. Nothing of importance happened 
that day. We were travelling through a com 
paratively old-settled part of the country, arid 
the houses were numerous. A young Indian 
rode with us a few miles, but he was a very 
civilized sort of red man. He had been at 
work on a farm down near Yankton, and was 
on his way to the Ponca Eeservation to visit 
his mother. As an Indian he rather disgusted 

"If I were a big six-foot Indian/ he said, 
after our passenger had gone, " I think I d 
carry a tomahawk, and wear a feather or two 
at least. I don t see what s the advantage of 
being an Indian if you re going to act just like 
a white man/ 

We camped that night in a beautiful nook in 
a bluff near a little stream. The next day we 
reached Running Water. The ferry-boat was 
a little thing, with a small paddle-wheel on 
each side operated by two horses on tread-mills. 
A man stood at the stern with a long oar to 
steer it. The river was not so wide here as at 
Yankton, but the current was swifter, which 
no doubt gave the place its name. It looked 


very doubtful if we should ever get across in 
the queer craft, but after a long time we suc 
ceeded in doing so. It gave us a good oppor 
tunity to study the water of the river, which 
looked more like milk than water, owing to the 
fine clay dissolved in it. The ferry-man thought 
very highly of the water, and told us proudly 
that a glass of it would never settle and become 

" It s the finest drinking-water in the world," 
he said. "I never drink anything else. Take 
a bucket of it up home every evening to drink 
overnight. You don t get any of this, clear 
well-water down me." 

We tasted of it, but couldn t see that it was 
much different from other water. 

"Boil it down a little, and give it a lower 
crust, and I should think it would make a very 
good custard-pie," said Jack. 

We found Mobrara to be a little place of a 
few hundred houses. We went into camp on 
the edge of the town, where we stayed the next 
day, as it was Sunday. Early Monday morn 
ing we were out on the road which led along 
the banks of the Niobrara River. We were 
somewhat surprised at the sinallness of this 


stream. It was of considerable width but very 
shallow, and in many places bubbled along over 
the rocks like a wide brook. We spoke of its 
size to a man whom we met. Said he : 

"Yes, it ain t no great shakes down here 
around its mouth, but you just wait till you 
get up in the neighborhood of its head-waters. 
It s a right smart bit of a river up there." 

"But I thought a river was usually bigger at 
its mouth than at its source/ I said. 

"Depends on the country it runs through/ 
answered the man. "Some rivers in these 
parts peter out entirely, and don t have no 
mouth a tall just go into the ground and 
leave a wet spot. This here Niobrara comes 
through a dry country, and what the sun don t 
dry up and the wind blow away the sand swal- 
lers mostly, though some water does sneak 
through, after all ; and in the spring it s about 
ten times as big as it is now. The Niobrara 
goes through the Sand Hills. Anything that 
goes through the Sand Hills comes out small. 
You fellers are going through the Sand 
Hills you ll come out smaller than you be 

This was the first time we had heard of the 


Sand Hills,, but after this everybody was talk 
ing about them and warning us against them. 

" Why/ 7 said one man, " you know that there 
Sarah Desert over in Africa somewhere ? Well, 
sir, that there Sarah is a reg lar flower-garden, 
with fountains a-squirting and the band play 
ing * Hail Columbia/ Alongside o the Newbraska 
Sand Hills. You ll go through em for a hun 
dred miles, and you ll wish you d never been 
bora !" 

This was not encouraging, but as they were 
still several days travel ahead, we resolved not 
to worry about them. 

But the country rapidly began to grow drier 
and more sandy, especially after the road ceased 
to follow the river. Before we left the river 
valley, however, Ollie made an important dis 
covery in a thicket on the edge of the bank. 
This was a number of wild plum-trees full of 
fruit. We gathered at least a half-bushel of 
plums, and several quarts of wild grapes. 

About the middle of the afternoon we came 
up on a great level prairie stretching away to 
the west as far as we could see. There seemed 
to be but few houses, and the scattering fields 
of corn were stunted and dried up. It had ap- 


parently been an extremely dry season, though 
the prospects for rain that night were good, 
and grew better. It was hot, and a strong 
south wind was blowing. Night soon began 
to come on, but we could find no good camp 
ing-place. We had not passed a house for four 
or five miles, nor a place where we could get 
water for the horses. As it grew dark, how 
ever, it began to rain. It kept up, and in 
creased to such an extent that in half an hour 
there were pools of water standing along the 
road in many places, and we decided to stop. 
It was wet work taking care of the horses, but 
the most discouraging thing was the report 
from the cook that there was no milk with 
which to make griddle-cakes for supper, and 
as he did not know how to make anything 
else, the prospect was rather gloomy. But 
through the rain we finally discovered a light a 
quarter of a mile away, and Ollie and I started 
out to find it. Jack refused to go, on the plea 
that he was still lame from his Yaukton trip 
after milk. 

We blundered away through the rain and 
darkness, and after stumbling in a dozen holes, 
running into a fence, and getting tangled up 


in an abandoned picket-rope, at last came up 
to the house. It was a little one-room board 
house such as the settlers call a " shack." The 


door was open, and inside we could see a man 
and woman and half a dozen children and a 
full dozen dogs. We walked up, and when the 
man saw us he called " Come in I" tossed two 


children on the bed in the corner, picked 
up their chairs, which were home-made, and 
brought them to us. 

"Wet, ain t it?" he exclaimed. "Rainy 
as the day Noah yanked the gang-plank into 
the Ark. I was a-telling Martha there was a 
right smart chance of a shower this afternoon. 
What might you-uns names be, and where 
might you be from, and where might you be 
going ?" 

We told him all about ourselves, and he 
went on : 

" Rainy night. Too late to help the co n, 
though. Co n s poor this year ; reckon we ll 
have to live on taters and hope. Tater crop 
ain t no great shakes, though. Nothing much 
left but hope, and dry for that. Reckon I ll 
go back to old Missouri in the spring, and work 
in a saw-mill. No saw-mills here, cause there 
ain t nothing to saw. Hay don t need sawing. 
Martha," he added, turning to his wife, " was 
it you said our roof didn t need mending ?" 

"I said it did need it a powerful sight," an 
swered the woman, as she put another stick of 
hay in the stove, and a stream of rain-water 
sputtered in the fire. 


" Mebby you re right/ 7 said the man. 
" There s enough dry spots for the dogs and 
children, but when we have visitors somebody 
has got to get wet. Reckon I onghter put on 
two shingles for visitors to set under. You 
fellers will stay to supper, of course. We ain t 
got much but bacon and taters, but you re 
powerful welcome." 

"No," I said, "we really mustn t stop. 
What we wanted was to see if we couldn t get 
a little milk from you." 

"Well, I ll be snaked !" exclaimed the man. 
" That makes me think I ain t milked the old 
cow yet." 

"I milked her more n. two hours ago, 
while you was cleaning your rifle," said his 

"That so ?" replied the man. "Where s the 
milk ?" 

The woman looked around a little. " Reckon 
the dogs or the young uns must V swallered 
it. Tain t in sight, nohow." 

" Oh, we can milk er again"!" exclaimed the 
man. " Old Spot sometimes comes down 
heavier on the second or third milking than 
she does on the first." 


He took a gourd from a shelf, and told us to 
" come on," and started out. He wore a big 
felt hat, but no coat, and he was barefooted. 
Just outside the door stood a bedstead and 
two or three chairs. " We move em out in 
the daytime to make more room," explained 
the man. The rain was still pouring down. 
The man took our lantern and began looking 
for the cow. He soon found her, and while I 
held the lantern, and Ollie our jug, he went 
down on his knees beside the cow and began 
to milk with one hand, holding the gourd in 
the other. The cow stood perfectly still, as if 
it was no new thing to be milked the second 
time. We had on rubber coats, but the man 
was without protection, and as he sat very near 
the cow a considerable stream ran oif of her 
hip-bone and down the back of his neck. 
When the gourd was full he poured it in our 
jug, and at my offering to pay for it he was 
almost insulted. " Not a cent, not a cent !" 
he exclaimed. "Al ays glad to commodate a 
neighbor. Good-night ; coming down in the 
morning to swap hosses with you." 

He went back to the house, and we started 
for the wagon. 


"He wouldn t have got quite so wet if be 
hadn t kept so close to the cow/ said Ollie, as 
we walked along. 

"What he needs," said I, "are eave-troughs 
on his cow." 


THE next morning dawned fair. We were 
awakened by Old Blacky kicking the side of 
the wagon-box with both hind-feet. 

"If that man with the ever-blooming cow 
comes down/ said Jack, "I ll swap him Old 

Just then we heard a loud " Hello !" and, 
looking out, we found the man leading a small 
yellow pony. 

"I just lowed I d come down and let yon 
fellers make something out of me on a boss- 
trade," said the man. 

"Well," answered Jack, "we re willing to 
swap that black horse over there. He s a 
splendid animal." 

"Isn t he rather much on the kick?" the 
man asked. 

" He does kick a little/ admitted Jack, 


"but only for exercise. He wouldn t hurt a 
fly. But he is so high-lifed that he has to 
kick to ease his nerves once in a while." 

"Thought I seen him whaling away at your 
wagon," returned the man. " Couldn t have 
him round my place, cause my house ain t 
very steady, and I reckon he d have it kicked 
all to flinders inside of a week." 

He talked for some time, but finally went off 
when he found that Jack was not willing to 
part with any horse except Old Blacky. 

The road was so sandy that the rain had not 
made much difference with it, and we were 
soon again moving on at a good rate. We 
were travelling in a direction a little north of 
west, and from one to half a dozen miles south 
of the Niobrara Eiver. It would have been 
nearer to have kept north of the river, but we 
were prevented by the Sioux and Ponca Indian 
reservations, through which no one was allowed 
to go. Our intention was to cross to the north 
of the river at Grand Rapids and get into the 
Keya Paha country, about which we heard a 
great deal, keep straight west, and, after cross 
ing the river twice more, reach Fort Niobrara 
and the town of Valentine, beyond which were 



the Sand Hills. This route would keep us all 
the time from twenty to thirty miles north of 
the railroad. 

We had not gone far this morning when we 
met two men on horseback riding side by side. 
They looked like farmers, only we noticed that 
each carried a big revolver in a belt and one 
of them a gun. They simply said " Good- 



morning/ and passed on. In about half an 
hour we met another pair similarly mounted 
and armed, and in another half-hour still two 

" Must be a wedding somewhere, or a Sun 
day-school picnic/ 7 said Jack. 

"But why do they all have the guns?" 
asked Ollie, innocently. 

" Oh, I don t know/ answered Jack. " Var 
mints about, I suppose." 

In a few minutes we came to a man working 
beside the road, and asked him what it all 
meant. He looked around in a very mysteri 
ous manner, and then half whispered the one 
word "Vigilantees !" with a strong accent on 
each syllable. 

"Oh I" said Jack, "vigilance committee." 

" Correct/ returned the man. 

"After horse-thieves, I suppose ?" went on 

" Exactly/ replied the man. "Stole two 
horses at Black Bird last night at ten o clock. 
Holt County Anti-Horse-thief Association after 
em this morning at four. That s the way we 
do business in this country !" 

We drove on, and Jack said : 


the Association wants to do is to 
buy Old Blacky and put him in a pasture for 
bait. In the morning the members can go out 
and gather up a wagon-load of disabled horse- 
thieves that have tried to steal him in the 
night and got kicked over the fence." 

We either met or saw a dozen other men on 
horseback, always in pairs ; but whether or not 
they caught the thief we never heard. 

So far we had had very poor luck in finding 
game ; but in the afternoon of this day Jack 
shot a grouse, and we camped rather earlier 
than usual.,. so that he might have ample time 
to cook it. There were also the plums and 
grapes to stew. We made our camp not far 
from a house, and, after a vast amount of ex 
tremely serious labor on the part of the cook, 
had a very good supper. 

The next day passed with but one incident 
worth recalling. In the afternoon we crossed 
the Niobrara at Grand Eapids on a tumble 
down wooden bridge, and turned due west 
through the Keya Paha country. This is so 
called from the Keya Paha River (pronounced 
Key-a-paw), a branch of the Niobrara which 
comes down out of Dakota and joins it a few 



miles below Grand Rapids. The country 
seemed to be much the same as that through 
which we had travelled, perhaps a little natter 


and sandier. Just across the river we saw the 
first large herd of stock, some five or six hun 
dred head being driven east by half a dozen 


A short distance beyond the river we came 
to a little blacksmith shop beside the road. 
As soon as Jack saw it he said : 

"We ought to stop and get the horses shod. 
I was looking at the holes the calks of Old 
Blacky s shoes made in the wagon - box last 
night, and they are shallow and irregular. He 
needs new shoes to do himself justice. If this 
blacksmith seems like a man of force of char 
acter, we ll see what he can do." 

Jack looked at the blacksmith quizzically 
when we drove up, and whispered to us, "He ll 
do/ and we unhitched. The pony had never 
been shod, and did not seem to need any arti 
ficial aids, so we left her to graze about while 
the others were being attended to. 

"Just shoe the brown one first, if it doesn t 
make any difference," said Jack. 

"All right," answered the blacksmith, and he 
went to work on this decent old nag, who slept 
peacefully throughout the whole operation. 

He then began on Old Blacky. He soon 
had shoes nailed on the old reprobate s for 
ward feet, and approached his rear ones. Old 
Blacky had made no resistance so far, and had 
contented himself with gnawing at the side of 


the shop and switching his tail. He even al 
lowed the blacksmith to take one of his hind- 
feet between his knees and start to pull off the 
old shoe. Then he began to struggle to free 
his leg. The blacksmith held on. Old Blacky 
saw that the time for action had arrived, so he 
drew his leg, with the foolish blacksmith still 
clinging to it, well up forward, and then threw 
it back with all his strength. The leg did not 
fly off, but the blacksmith did, and half-way 
across the shop. He picked himself up, and, 
after looking at the horse, said : 

" Tears & if that ain t a colt any more." 

" No," answered Jack ; "he s fifteen or six 

" Old enough to know better," observed the 
blacksmith. "Til try him again." 

He once more got the leg up, and again Old 
Blacky tried to throw him off. But this time 
the man hung on. After the third effort 
Blacky looked around at him with a good deal 
of surprise. Then he put down the leg to 
which the man was still clinging, and with the 
other gave him a blow which was half a kick 
and half a push, which sent the man sprawling 
over by his anvil. 




"The critter don t seem to take to it no 
how, does he ?" said the blacksmith, cheer 
fully, as he again got up. 

" He s a very peculiar horse," answered Jack. 
" Has violent likes and dislikes. His likes are 
for food, and his dislikes for everything else." 

"Til tackle him again, though/ said the 

But Blacky saw that he could no longer 


afford to temporize with the fellow, and now 
began kicking fiercely with both feet in all 
directions, swinging about like a war-ship to 
get the proper range on everything in sight, 
and finally ending up by putting one foot 
through the bellows. 

"Reckon I ve got to call in assistance/ 7 said 
the man, as he started off. He came back with 
another man, who laid hold of one of Blacky s 
forward legs and held it up off the floor. The 
blacksmith then seized one of his hind ones 
and got it up. This left the old sinner so that 
if he would kick he would have to stand on 
one foot while he did it, and this was hardly 
enough for even so bad a horse as he was. He 
did not wholly give up, however, but after a 
great amount of struggling they at last got 
him shod. 

"We ll call him the Blacksmith s Pet," said 

Good camping - places did not seem to be 
numerous, and just after the sun. had gone 
down we turned out beside the road near a 
half-completed sod house.. There was no other 
house in sight, and this had apparently been 
abandoned early in the season, as weeds and 


grass were growing on top of the walls,, which 
were three or four feet high. There was also 
a peculiar sort of well, a few of which we had 
seen during the day. It consisted of four one- 
inch boards nailed together and sunk into the 
ground. The boards were a foot wide, thus 
making the inside of the shaft ten inches 
square. This one was forty or fifty feet deep, 
but there was a long rope and slender tin 
bucket beside it. The water was not good, 
but there was no other to be had. Near the 
house Ollie found the first cactus we had 
seen, which showed, if nothing else did, that 
we were getting into a dry country. He took 
it up carefully and stowed it away in the cabin 
to take back home as evidence of his extensive 

For several days we had not been able to 
have a camp-fire, owing to the wind and dry- 
ness of the prairie, for had we started a prairie 
fire it might have done great damage. 

" We don t want the Holt County Anti-Prai 
rie Fire Society after us/ Jack had said ; so 
we had been using our oil-stove. 

But this evening was very still, and there 
seemed to be no danger in building a camp- 


fire within the walls of the house, and we soon 
had one going with wood which we had gath 
ered along the river, since to have found wood 
enough for a camp-fire in that neighborhood 
would have been as impossible as to have found 
a stone or a spring of water. 

We were sitting about on the sods after sup 
per when a man rode up on horseback, who 
said he was looking for some lost stock. We 
asked him to have something to eat, and he ac 
cepted the invitation, and afterwards talked a 
long time, and gave us much information which 
we wished about the country. Somebody men 
tioned the little well, and the man turned to 
Ollie and said : 

" How would you like to slip down such a 
well ?" 

"I m afraid I m too big/ answered Ollie. 

" Well, perhaps you are ; but there was a 
child last summer over near where I live who 
wasn t too big. He was a little fellow not much 
over two years old. The well was a new one, 
and the curb was almost even with the top of 
the ground. He slipped down feet first. It 
was a hundred and twenty feet deep, with fif 
teen feet of water at the bottom ; but he fitted 


pretty snug, and only went down about fifty 
feet at first. His mother missed him, saw that 
the cover was gone from the well, and listened. 
She heard his voice, faint and smothered. There 
was no one else at home. She called to him not 
to stir, and went to the barn, where there was 
a two-year-old colt. He had never been ridden 
before, but he was ridden that afternoon, and I 
guess he hasn t forgotten the lesson. She came 
to my place first, told me, and rode away to 
another neighbor s. In half an hour there were 
twenty men there, and soon fift}^ and before 
morning two hundred. 

"There was no way to fish the child out 
the only thing was to dig down beside the 
small shaft. We could hear him faintly, and 
we began to dig. We started a shaft about four 
feet square. The sandy soil caved badly, but 
men with horses running all the way brought 
out lumber from Grand Rapids for curbing. 

" The child s father came too. He listened a 
second at the small shaft, and then went down 
the other. Two men could work at the bot 
tom of it. One of the men was relieved every 
few minutes by a fresh worker, but the father 
worked on, and did more than the others, not- 


withstanding the changes. All of the time the 
mother sat on the ground beside the small shaft 
with her arms about its top. At four o clock 
in the morning we were down opposite the pris 
oner. He was still crying faintly. We saw that 
to avoid the danger of causing him to slip far 
ther down we must dig below him, bore a hole 
in the board, and push through a bar. But a 
few shovelfuls more were needed. The work 
jarred the shaft, and the child slipped twenty- 
five feet deeper. At seven o clock we were 
down to where he was again, though we could 
no longer hear him. We dug a little below, 
bored a hole, and the father slipped through a 
pickaxe handle, and fainted away as he felt the 
little one slide down again but rest on the han 
dle. We tore oft the boards, took the baby 
out, and drew him and his father to the sur 
face. There were two doctors waiting for 
them, and the next day neither was much the 
worse for it." 

The man got on his horse and rode away. 
We agreed that he had told us a good story, 
but the next day others assured us that it had 
all happened a year before. 



BESIDES the cactus, another form of vegeta 
tion which began to attract more and more of 
Ollie s attention was the red tumbleweed. In 
deed, Jack and I found ourselves interested in 
it also. The ordinary tumbleweed, green when 
growing and gray when tumbling, had long 
been familiar to us, but the red variety was 
new. The old kind which we knew seldom 
grew more than two feet in diameter ; it was 
usually almost exactly round, and with its 
finely branched limbs was almost as solid as a 
big sponge, and when its short stem broke off 
at the top of the ground in the fall it would 
go bounding away across the prairie for miles. 
The red sort seemed to be much the same, 
except for its color and size. We saw many 
six or seven feet, perhaps more, in diameter, 
.though they were rather flat, and not probably 
over three or four feet high. 


The first one we saw was on edge, and going 
at a great rate across the prairie, bounding 
high into the air, and acting as if it had quite 
gone crazy, as there was a strong wind blow 

"Look at that overgrown red tumbleweed !" 
exclaimed Jack. "I never saw anything like 
that before. Jump on the pony, Ollie, and 
catch the varmint and bring it back here !" 

Ollie was willing enough to do this, and the 
pony was willing enough to go, so off they 
went. I think if the weed had had a fair field 
that Ollie would never have overtaken it, but 
it got caught in the long grass occasionally, 
and he soon came up to it. But the pony was 
not used to tumbleweed-coursing, and shied off 
with a startled snort. Ollie brought her about 
and made another attempt. But again the 
frightened pony ran around it. Half a dozen 
times this was repeated. At last she happened 
to dash around it on the wrong side just as it 
bounded into the air before the wind. It struck 
both horse and rider like a big dry-land wave, 
and Ollie seized it. If the poor pony had been 
frightened before, she was now terror-stricken, 
and gave a jump like a tiger, and shot away 


faster than we had ever seen her run before. 
Ollie had lost control of her, and could only 
cling to the saddle with one hand and hold to 
the big blundering weed with the other. Fort 
unately the pony ran toward the wagon. As 
they came up we could see little but tumble- 
weed and pony legs, and it looked like noth 
ing so much as a hay-stack running away on 
its own legs. When the pony came up to the 
wagon she stopped so suddenly that Ollie went 
over her head. But he still clung to the weed, 
and struck the ground inside of it. He jumped 
up, still in the weed, so that it now looked like 
a hay-stack 011 two legs. We pulled him out 
of it, and found him none the worse for his 
adventure. But he was a little frightened, 
and said : 

"I don t think I ll chase those things again, 
Uncle Jack not with that pony." 

"Oh, that s all right, Ollie/ said Jack. 
" I m going to organize the Nebraska Cross- 
Country Tumbleweed Club, and you ll want to 
come to the meets. We ll give the weed one 
minute start, and the first man that catches it 
will get a prize of of a watermelon, for in 


" Well, 1 think I ll take another horse before 
I try it," returned Ollie. 

"Might try Old Browny," I said. "If he 
ever came up to a tumbleweed he would lie 
right down on it and go to sleep." 


"Yes, and Blacky would hold it with one 
foot and eat it up/ 7 said Jack. "Unless he 


took a notion to turn around and kick it out 
of existence." 

We looked the queer plant over carefully,, 
and found it so closely branched that it was 
impossible to see into it more than a few 
inches. The branches were tough and elastic, 
and when it struck the ground after being 
tossed up it would rebound several inches. But 
it was almost as light as a thistle-ball, and 
when we turned it loose it rolled away across 
the prairie again as if nothing had happened. 

"They re bad things sometimes when there 
is a prairie fire," said Jack. "No matter how 
wide the fire-break may be, a blazing tumble- 
weed will often roll across it and set fire to the 
grass beyond. They ve been known to leap 
over streams of considerable width, too, or fall 
in the water and float across, still blazing. Two 
years ago the town of Frontenac was burned 
up by a tumbleweed, though the citizens had 
made an approved fire-break by ploughing two 
circles of furrows around their village and 
burning off the grass between them. These 
big red ones must be worse than the others. 
I believe," he went on, "that tumbleweeds 
might be used to carry messages, like carrier- 


pigeons. The next one we come across we ll 
try it." 

That afternoon we caught a fine specimen, 
and Jack securely fastened this message to it 
and turned it adrift : 

"Schooner Rattletrap, September , 188- : Latitude, 
42.50 ; Longitude, 99.35. To Whom it may Concern : 
From Prairie Flower, bound for Deadwood. All well 
except Old Blacky, who has an appetite." 

The night after our stop by the unfinished 
house we again camped on the open prairie, a 
quarter of a mile from a settler s house, where 
we got water for the horses. This house was 
really a - dugout," being more of a cellar than 
a house. It was built in the side of a little 
bank, the back of the sod roof level with the 
ground, and the front but two or three feet 
above it. 

" I d be afraid, if I were living in it, that a 
heavy rain in the night might fill it up, and 
float the bedstead, and bump my nose on the 
ceiling," said Jack. 

It had been a warm afternoon, but when we 
went to bed it was cooler, though there was no 
wind stirring. The smoke of our camp-fire 


went straight up. There was no moon, but 
the sky was clear, and we remarked that we 
had not seen the stars look so bright any night 
before. The front of our wagon stood toward 
the northwest. We went to bed, but at two 
o clock we were awakened by a most violent 
shaking of the cover. The wind was blowing 
a gale, and the whole top seemed about to be 
going by the board. We scrambled up, and I 
heard Jack s voice calling for me to come out. 
The cover-bows were bent far over, and the 
canvas pressed in on the side to the southwest 
till it seemed as if it must burst. The front 
end of the top had gone out and was cracking 
in the wind. I crept forward, and as I did so 
I felt the wagon rise up on the windward side 
and bump back on the ground. I concluded 
we were doomed to a wreck, and called to Ollie 
to get out as fast as he could. I supposed a 
hard storm had struck us, but as I went over 
the dash-board I was astonished to see the stars 
shining as brightly as ever in the deep, dark 
sky. Jack was clinging to the rear wagon 
wheel on the windward side, which was all 
that had saved it from capsizing. He called 
to me to take hold of the tongue and steer the 



craft around with the stern to the gale. I did 
so,, while he turned on the wheel. As it came 
around the loose sides of the cover began to 
flutter and crack, while the puckering-string 
gave way, and the wind swept through the 
wagon, carrying everything that was loose be 
fore it, including Ollie, who was just getting 



over the dash-board. He was not hurt, but 
just then we heard a most pitiful yelping, .as 
Jack s blankets and pillow went rolling away 
from where the wagon had stood. It was 
Snoozer going with them. The yelping disap 
peared in the darkness, and we heard frying- 
pans, tin plates, and other camp articles clat 
tering away with the rest. The Rattletrap 
itself had tried to run before the gale, but I 
had put on the brake and stopped it. The 
three of us then crouched in front of it, and 
waited for the wind to blow itself out. We 
could see or hear nothing of the horses. There 
was not a cloud in sight, and the stars still 
shone down calmly and unruffled, while the 
wind cut and hissed through the long prairie 
grass all about us. It kept up for about ten 
minutes, when it began to stop as suddenly as 
it had begun. In twenty minutes there was 
nothing but a cool, gentle breeze coming out 
of the southwest. We lit the lantern and tried 
to gather up our things, but soon realized that 
we could not do much that night. We found 
the unfortunate Snoozer crouched in a little 
depression which was perhaps an old buffalo 
wallow, but could see nothing of the horses. 


We concluded to go to bed and wait for morn 

When it came we found our things scattered 
for over a quarter of a mile. We recovered 
everything, though the wagon-seat was broken. 
The horses had come back, so we could not tell 
how far they had gone before the wind. 

"I ve read about those night winds on the 
plains," said Jack, "and we ll look out for em 
in the future. We ll put an anchor on Snoozer 
at least." 

This intelligent animal had not forgotten 
his night s experience, and stuck closely in the 
wagon, where he even insisted on taking his 

The road we were following was gradually 
drawing closer to the Niobrara, and we began 
to see scattering pine-trees, stunted and broken, 
along the heads of the canons or ravines lead 
ing down to the river. There was less sand, 
and we made better progress. The country 
was but little settled, and game was more 
plentiful. We got two or three grouse. We 
went into camp at night by the head of what 
appeared to be a large canon, under a tempest- 
tossed old pine-tree, through which the wind 


constantly sighed. There was no water, but 
we counted on getting it down the canon. A 
man went by on horseback, driving some cat 
tle, who told us that we could find a spring 
down about half a mile. 

" Can we get any hay down there ?" I asked 
him. " We re out of feed for the horses, and 
the grass seems pretty poor here/ 

" Down a mile beyond the spring I have a 
dozen stacks," answered the man, "and you re 
welcome to all you can bring up on your pony. 
Just go down and help yourselves." 

We thanked him and he went on. As soon 
as we could we started down. It was begin 
ning to get dark, and grew darker rapidly as we 
went down the ravine, as its sides were high 
and the trees soon became numerous. There 
was no road, nothing but a mere cattle-path, 
steep and stony in many places. We found the 
spring and watered all the horses, left Blacky 
and Browny, and went on after the hay with 
the pony, Jack leading her, and Ollie and I 
walking ahead with the lantern. It seemed a 
long way as we stumbled along in the darkness, 
all the time downhill. 

" I guess that man wasn t so liberal as he 


seemed/ said Jack. " The pony will be able 
to carry just about enough hay up here to make 
Snoozer a bed." 

We plunged on, till at last the path became 
a little nearer level. It crossed a small open 
tract and then wound among bushes and low 
trees. Suddenly we saw something gleam in 
the light of the lantern, and stopped right 
on the river s bank. The water looked deep 
and dark, though not very wide. The current 
was swift and eddying. 

"We ve passed the hay/ I said. "It must 
be on that open flat we crossed." 

We went back, and, turning to the right, 
soon found it. I set the lantern down and 
began to pull hay from one of the stacks, when 
the pony made a sudden movement, struck the 
lantern with her foot, and smashed the globe 
to bits. 

" There," exclaimed Jack, "we ll have a fine 
time going up that badger-hole of a canon in 
the dark !" 

But there was nothing else to do, and we 
made up two big bundles of hay and tied them 
to the pony s back. 

" She ll think it s tumbleweeds," said Ollie. 


"If. she s headed in the right direction I 
hope she will/ answered Jack. 

We started up, but it was a long and toil 
some climb. In many places Jack and I had 
to get down on our hands and knees and feel 
out the path. The worst place was a scramble 
up a bank twenty feet high, and covered with 
loose stones. I was ahead. The heroic little 
pony with her unwieldy load sniffed at the 
prospect a little, and then started bravely up, 
"hanging on by her toe-nails/ as Ollie said. 
When she was almost to the top she stepped 
on a loose stone, lost her footing, went over, 
and rolled away into the darkness and under 
brush. Jack stumbled over a little of the hay 
which had come off in the path, hastily rolled 
up a torch, and lit it with a match. By this 
light we found the pony on her back, like a 
tumble - bug, with her load for a cushion and 
her feet in the air, and kicking wildly in every 
direction. While Ollie held the torch, Jack 
and I went to her rescue, and, after a vast deal 
of pulling and lifting, got her to her feet just 
as the hay torch died out. Again she scram 
bled up the bank, and this time with success. 
We went on, found the other horses, and were 


soon at the wagon. We voted the pony all the 
hay she wanted, and went to bed tired. 

The next day, the ninth out from Yankton, 
though it was a long run, brought us to Valen 
tine, the first town on the railroad which we 
had seen since leaving the former place. Be 
fore we reached it we went several miles along 
the upper ends of the canons, down a long 
hill so steep that we had to chain both hind 
wheels, forded the Niobrara twice, followed 
the river several miles, went out across the 
military reservation, which was like a desert, 
saw six or eight hundred negro soldiers at 
Fort Niobrara, and finally drove through Val 
entine, and went into camp a mile west of 
town. On the way we saw thousands of the 
biggest and reddest tumbleweeds, and two or 
three new sorts of cactus. The colored troops 
surprised Ollie, as he had never seen any be 

"It s the western winds and the hot sun 
that s tanned those soldiers/ said Jack. "We ll 
look just that way, too, before we get back." 

Ollie was half inclined to believe this aston 
ishing statement at first, but concluded that 
his uncle was joking. 


We went into camp on the banks of the 
Minichaduza River, a little brook which flows 
into the Niobrara from the northwest. All 
night it gurgled and bubbled almost under our 
wheels. A man stopped to chat with us as we 
sat around our camp-fire after supper. We 
told him of our experience in getting the hay 
the night before. He laughed and said : 

" Ever steal any of your horse feed ?" 

"We haven t yet/ answered Jack. "We 
try to be reasonably honest." 

"Some don t, though/ replied the man. 
" Most of em that are going West in a covered 
wagon seem to think corn in the field is public 
property. A fellow camped right here one 
afternoon last fall. He was out of feed, and 
took a grain sack on one arm and a big Win 
chester rifle on the other, and went over to old 
Brown s cornfield. He took the gun along 
not to shoot anybody, but to sort of intimidate 
Brown if he should catch him. Suddenly he 
saw an old fellow coming towards him carry 
ing a gun about a foot longer than his own. 
The young fellow wilted right down on the 
ground and never moved. He happened to go 
down on a big prickly cactus, but he never 


stirred, cactus or no cactus. He thought 
Brown had caught him, and that he was done 
for. The old man kept coming nearer and 
nearer. He was almost to him. The young 


fellow concluded to make a brave fight. So 
he jumped up and yelled. The old man 
dropped his gun and ran like a scared wolf. 
Then the young fellow noticed that the other 
also had a sack in which he had been gather- 


ing corn. He called him back, they saw that 
they were both thieves, shook hands, and went 
ahead and robbed old Brown together." 

The man got up to go. " Well, good-night, 
boys," he said. " Rest as hard as you can to 
morrow. You ll strike into the Sand Hills 
ut about nine o clock Monday morning. Take 
three days feed, and every drop of water you 
can carry ; and if you waste any of it washing 
your hands you re bigger fools than I think 
you are." 



4 COME, stir out of that and get the camels 
ready for the desert I" 

This was Jack s cheery way of warning Ollie 
and me that it was time to get up on the morn 
ing of our start into the Sand Hills. 

" Any simooms in sight ?" asked Ollie, by 
way of reply to Jack s remark. 

" Well, I think Old Browny scents one ; he 
has got his nose buried in the sand like a 
camel/ answered Jack. 

It was only just coming daylight, but we 
were agreed that an early start was best. It was 
another Monday morning, and we knew that it 
would take three good days driving to carry us 
through the sand country. We had learned 
that, notwithstanding what our visitor of the 
first night had said, there were several places 
on the road where we could get water and feed 



for the horses. We should have to carry some 
water along, however, and had got two large 
kegs from Valentine, and filled them and all 
of our jugs and pails the night before. We 
also had a good stock of oats and corn, and a 
big bundle of hay, which we put in the cabin 
on the bed. 

" Just as soon as Old Blacky finds that there 
is no water along the road he will insist on 
having about a barrel a day," said Jack. " And 
if he can t get it he will balk, and kick the 
dash-board into kindling-wood." 

A little before sunrise we started. It was 
agreed, owing to the increase in the load and 
the deep sand, that no one, not even Snoozer, 
should be allowed to ride in the wagon. If Ollie 
got tired he was to ride the pony. So we 
started off, walking beside the wagon, with the 
pony just behind, as usual, dangling her stir 
rups, and the abused Snoozer, looking very 
much hurt at the insult put upon him, follow 
ing behind her. 

For three or four miles the road was much 
like that to which we had been accustomed. 
Then it gradually began to grow sandier. We 
were following an old trail which ran near the 


railroad,, sometimes on one side and sometimes 
on the other ; and this was the case all the way 
through the hills. The railroad was new, hav 
ing been built only a year or two before. There 
was a station on it every fifteen or twenty miles, 
with a side-track, and a water- tank for the 
engines, but not much else. 

There was no well-marked boundary to the 
Sand Hills, but gradually, and almost before 
we realized it, we found ourselves surrounded 
by them. We came to a crossing of the rail 
road, and in a little cut a few rods away we saw 
the sand drifted over the rails three or four 
inches deep, precisely like snow. 

"Well," said Jack, "I guess we re in the 
Sand Hills at last if we ve got where it drifts." 

" I wonder if they have to have sand-ploughs 
on their engines ?" said Ollie. 

" J ve heard that they frequently have to 
stop and shovel it off," answered Jack. 

As we got farther among the sand dunes we 
found them all sizes and shapes, though usually 
circular, and from fifteen to forty feet high. 
Of course the surface of the country was very 
irregular, and there would be places here and 
there where the grass had obtained a little foot- 


ing and the sand had not drifted np. There 
were also some hills which seemed to be inde 
pendent of the sand piles. 

We stopped for noon on a little flat where 
there was some struggling grass. This flat ran 
off to the north, and narrowed into a small 
valley through which in the spring probably a 
little water flowed. We had finished dinner 
when we noticed a flock of big birds circling 
about the little valley, and, on looking closer,, 
saw that some of them were on the ground. 

"They are sand-hill cranes/ said Jack. 
" I ve seen them in Dakota, but this must be 
their home/ 7 

They were immense birds, white and gray, 
and with very long legs. Jack took his rifle 
and tried to creep up on them, but they were 
too shy, and soared away to the south. 

We soon passed the first station on the rail 
road, called Crookston. The telegraph-operator 
came out and looked at us, admitted that it 
was a sandy neighborhood, and went back in. 
We toiled on without any incident of note dur 
ing the whole afternoon. Toward night we 
passed another station, called Georgia, and the 
man in charge allowed us to fill our kegs from 



the water-tank. We went on three or four miles 
and stopped beside the trail, and a hundred 
yards from the railroad, for the night. The 


great drifts of sand were all around us, and no 
desert could have been lonelier. We had a 
little wood and built a camp-fire. The even- 


ing was still and there was not a sound. Even 
the Blacksmith s Pet, wandering about seeking 
what he could devour, and finding nothing, 
made scarcely a sound in the soft sand. The 
moon was shining, and it was warm as any 
summer evening. Jack sat on the ground be 
side the wagon and played the banjo for half 
an hour. After a while we walked over to the 
railroad. We could hear a faint rumble, and 
concluded that a train was approaching. 

" Let s wait for it/ proposed Jack. " It will 
be along in a moment." 

We waited and listened. Then we distinctly 
heard the whistle of a locomotive, and the faint 
roar gradually ceased. 

"It s stopped somewhere," I said. 

" Don t see what it should stop around here 
for," said Jack, " unless to take on a sand-hill 

Then we heard it start up, run a short dis 
tance, and again stop ; this it repeated half a 
dozen times, and then after a pause it settled 
down to a long steady roar again. 

"It isn t possible, is it, that that train has 
been stopped at the next station west of here ?" 
I said. 


" The next station is Cody, and it s a dozen 
miles from here/ answered Jack. " It doesn t 
seem as if we could hear it so far, but we ll 
time it and see." 

He looked at his watch and we waited. For 
a long time the roar kept up, occasionally dying 
away as the train probably went through a deep 
cut or behind a hill. It gradually increased in 
volume, till at last it seemed as if the train 
must certainly be within a hundred yards. 
Still it did not appear, and the sound grew 
louder and louder. But at the end of thirty- 
five minutes it came around the curve in sight 
and thundered by, a long freight train, and 
making more noise, it seemed, than any train 
ever made before. 

" That s where it was !" exclaimed Jack "at 
Cody, twelve miles from here ; and we first 
heard it I don t know how far beyond. If I 
ever go into the telephone business I ll keep 
away from the Sand Hills. A man here ought to 
be able to hold a pleasant chat with a neighbor 
two miles off, and by speaking up loud ask the 
postmaster ten miles away if there is any mail 
for him." 

We were off ploughing through the sand 


again early the next morning. We could not 
give the horses quite all the water they wanted, 
but we did the best we could. We were in the 
heart of the hills all day. There were simply 
thousands of the great sand drifts in every di 
rection. Buffalo bones half buried were be 
coming numerous. We saw several coyotes, or 
prairie wolves, skulking about, but we shot at 
them without success. We got water at Cody, 
and pressed on. In the afternoon we sighted 
some antelope looking cautiously over the 
crest of a sand billow. Ollie mounted the 
pony and I took my rifle, and we went after 
them, while Jack kept on with the wagon. 
They retreated, and we followed them a mile 
or more back from the trail, winding among 
the drifts and attempting to get near enough 
for a shot. But they were too wary for us. 
At last we mounted a hill rather higher than 
the rest, and saw them scampering away a mile 
or more to the northwest. We were surprised 
more by something which we saw still on be 
yond them, and that was a little pond of water 
deep down between two great ridges of sand. 

" I didn t expect to see a lake in this coun 
try/ said Ollie. 


I studied the lay of the land a moment, and 
said: "I think it s simply a place where the 
wind has scooped out the sand down below the 
water-line and it has filled up. The wind has, 
dug a well, that s all. You know the telegraph- 
operator at Georgia told us the wells here 
were shallow that there s plenty of water down 
a short distance." 

We could see that there was considerable 
grass and quite an oasis around the pond. 
But in every other direction there was noth 
ing but sand billows, all scooped out on their 
northwest sides where the fierce winds of win 
ter had gnawed at them. The afternoon sun 
was sinking, and every dune cast a dark shadow 
on the light yellow of the sand, making a great 
landscape of glaring light covered with black 
spots. A coyote sat on a buffalo skull on top 
of the next hill and looked at us. A little owl 
flitted by and disappeared in one of the shadows. 

"This is like being adrift in an open boat," 
I said to Ollie. "We must hurry on and catch 
the Kattletrap." 

"I m in the open boat," answered Ollie. 
"You re just simply swimming about without 
even a life-preserver on." 


We turned and started for the trail. We 
found it, but we had spent more time in the 
hills than we realized, and before we had gone 
far it began to grow dark. We waded on, and 
at last saw Jack s welcome camp-fire. When 
we came up we smelled grouse cooking, and he 

"While you fellows were chasing about and 
getting lost I gathered in a brace of fat grouse. 
What you want to do next time is to take 
along your hat full of oats, and perhaps you 
can coax the antelope to come up and eat." 

The camp was near another railroad station 
called Eli. We had been gradually working 
north, and were now not over three or four 
miles from the Dakota line ; but Dakota here 
consisted of nothing but the immense Sioux 
Indian Reservation, two or three hundred 
miles long. 

The next morning Jack complained of not 
feeling well. 

"What s the matter, Jack ?" I asked. 

"Gout/" answered Jack, promptly. "Fm 
too good a cook for myself. I m going to let 
you cook for a few days, and give my system a 



This seemed very funny to Ollie and me, 
who had been eating Jack s cooking for two 
or three weeks. The fact was that the gouty 
Jack was the poorest cook that ever looked 
into a kettle, and he knew it well enough. 
He could make one thing pancakes noth 
ing else. They were usually fairly good, though 
he would sometimes get his recipes mixed up, 
and use his sour-milk one when the milk was 
sweet, or his sweet-milk one when it was sour r 
but we got accustomed to this. Then it was 
hard to spoil young and tender fried grouse, 
and the stewed plums had been good, though 
he had got some hay mixed with them ; but 
the flavor of hay is not bad. We bought fre 
quently of "canned goods" at the stores, and 
this he could not injure a great deal. 

"We did not pay much attention to Jack s 
threat about stopping cooking. He got break 
fast after a fashion, mixing sour and sweet 
milk as an experiment, and though he didn t 
eat much himself, we did not think he was 
going to be sick. But after walking a short 
distance he declared he could go no farther, 
and climbed into the cabin and rolled upon 
the bed. 


Ollie and I ploughed along with the sand 
still streaming, like long flaxen hair, off the 
wagon-wheels as they turned. In a little val 
ley about ten o clock Ollie shot his first grouse. 
We saw more antelope, and met a man with 
his wife and six children and five dogs and 
two cows and twelve chickens going east. He 
said he was tired of Nebraska, and was on his 
way to Illinois. At noon we stopped at Merri- 
man, another railroad station. Jack got up and 
made a pretence of getting dinner, but he ate 
nothing himself, and really began to look ill. 

We made but a short stop, as we were anx 
ious to get out of the worst of the sand that af 
ternoon. We asked about feed and water for 
the horses, and were told that we could get both 
at Irwin, another station fifteen miles ahead. 
We pressed on, with Jack still in the wagon, 
but it was almost dark before we reached the 
station. AVe found a man on the railroad track. 

" Can we get some feed and water here ?" I 
asked of him. 

"Beckon not," answered the man. 

"Where can we find the station agent ?" 

"He s gone up to Gordon, and won t be 
back till midnight." 



"Hasn t any one got any horse -feed for 
sale ?" 

"There isn t a smell of horse -feed here/ 
said the man. " I ve got the only well, except 


the railroad s, but it s most dry. I ll give you 
what water I can, though. As for feed, you d 
better go on three miles to Keith s ranch. It s 
on Lost Creek Flat, and there s lots of hay- 


stacks there, and you can help yourself. At the 
ranch-house they will give you other things." 

We drove over to the man s house, and got 
half a pail of water apiece for the horses. 
They wanted more, but there was no more in 
the well. The man said we could get every 
thing we wanted at the ranch, and we started 
on. The horses were tired, but even Old 
Blacky was quite amiable, and trudged along 
in the sand without complaint. 

Jaqk was still in the wagon, and we heard 
nothing of him. It was cloudy and very dark. 
But the horses kept in the trail, and after, as 
it seemed to us, we had gone five miles, we 
felt ourselves on firmer ground. Soon wo 
thought we could make out something, per 
haps hay-stacks, through the darkness. I sent 
Ollie on the pony to see what it was. He rode 
away, and in a moment I heard a great snort 
ing and a stamping of feet, and Ollie s voice 
calling for me to come. I ran over with the 
lantern, and found that he had ridden full 
into a barbed-wire fence around a hay-stack. 
The pony stood trembling, with the blood 
flowing from her breast and legs, but the 
scratches did not seem to be deep. 


"We must find that ranch-house/ 7 I said to 
Ollie. " It ought to be near." 

For half an hour we wandered among the 
wilderness of hay-stacks, every one protected 
by barbed wire. At last we heard a dog bark 
ing, followed the sound,, and came to the house. 
The dog was the only live thing at home, and 
the house was locked. 

" Well, what we want is water," I said, "and 
here s the well." 

We let down the bucket and brought up two 
quarts of mud. 

"The man was right," said Ollie. "This 
is worse than the Sarah Desert." 

"Fountains squirt and bands play The Old 
Oaken Bucket" in the Sarah Desert Alongside o 
this," I answered. 

It was eleven o clock before we found the 
wagon. We could hear Jack snoring inside, 
and were surprised to find Snoozer on guard 
outside, wide awake. He seemed tq feel his 
responsibility, and at first was not inclined to 
let us approach. 

We unharnessed the horses, and Ollie crawl 
ed under the fence around one of the stacks of 
hay and pulled out a big armful for them. 


"The poor things shall have all the hay 
they want, anyhow/ he said. 

"Pm afraid they ll think it s pretty dry/ I 
returned, "but I don t see what we can do." 

Then I called to Jack, and said : "Come, get 
up and get us some supper !" 

After a good deal of growling he called back : 
"I m not hungry." 

"But we are, and you re well enough to 
make some cakes." 

" Won t do it," answered Jack. "You folks 
can make em as well as I can." 

"I can t. Can you ?" I said to Ollie. He 
shook his head. 

"You re not very sick or you wouldn t be so 
cross," I called to Jack. "Boll out and get 
supper, or Pll pull you out !" 

"First fellow comes in this wagon gets the 
head knocked off m !" cried Jack. "Besides, 
there s no milk ! No eggs ! No nothing ! Go 
way ! ^m sick ! That s all there is," and 
something which looked like a cannon-ball 
shot out of the front end of the wagon, fol 
lowed by a paper bag which might have been 
the wadding used in the cannon. " That s all ! 
Lemme lone !" And we heard Jack tie down 


the front of the cover and roll over on the 
bed again. 

" See what it is/ I said to Ollie. 

He took the lantern and started. " Guess 
it s a can of Boston baked beans/ he said. 

" Oh, then we re all right/ I replied. 

He picked it up and studied it carefully by 
the light of the lantern. 

" No/ he said, slowly, "it isn t that. G g, 
double o gooseberries that s what it is a 
can of gooseberries we got at Valentine." 

" And this is a paper bag of sugar," I said, 
picking it up. "No gout to-night !" 

I cut open the can and poured in the sugar. 
We stirred it up with a stick, and Ollie drank 
a third of it and I the rest. Then we crawled 
under the wagon, .covered ourselves with the 
pony s saddle-blanket, and went to sleep. But 
before we did so I said : 

" Ollie, at the next town I am going to get 
you a cook-book, and we ll be independent of 
that wretch in the wagon." 

"All right," answered Ollie. 



THE next morning the condition of the tem 
pers of the crew of the Rattletrap was reversed. 
Jack was feeling better and was quite amiable., 
and inclined to regret his bloodthirsty language 
of the night before. But Ollie and I, on our 
diet of gooseberries, had not prospered, and 
woke up as cross as Old Blacky. The first 
thing I did was to seize the empty gooseberry 
can and hit the side of the wagon a half-dozen 
resounding blows. 

" Get up there," I cried, "and tend to break 
fast ! No pretending you re sick this morning. " 

"All right!" came Jack s voice, cheerfully. 
fi Certainly. No need of your getting excited, 
though. You see, I really wasn t hungry last 
night, or I d have got supper." 

" But we were hungry !" answered Ollie. "I 
don t think I was ever much hungrier in my 


life; and then to get nothing but a pint of 
gooseberries ! I could eat my hat this morn- 


inn- ! 

"Fin. sorry," said Jack, coining out; "but 
I can t cook unless I m hungry myself. The 
hunger of others does not inspire me. I gave 
you all there was. Your hunger ought to have 
inspired you to do something with those goose 

" Fd like to know what sort of a meal you d 
have got up with a can of gooseberries ?" 

"Why, my dear young nephew/ exclaimed 
Jack, "if Fd been awakened to action I d 
have fricasseed those gooseberries, built them 
up into a gastronomical poem, and made a, 
meal of them fit for a king. A great cook 
like I am is an artist as much as a great poet. 

"Oh 7 bother!" I interrupted; "the goose 
berries are gone. There s the grouse Ollie shot 
yesterday. Do something with that for break 

Jack disappeared in the wagon, and began 
to throw grouse feathers out the front end 
with a great flourish. The poor horses were 
much dejected, and stood with their heads 


down. They had eaten bnt little of the hay. 
Water was what they wanted. 

" We must hitch up and go on without wait 
ing for breakfast," I said to Ollie. "It can t 
be far to water now, and they must have some. 
Jack can be cooking the grouse in the wagon." 

So we were soon under way, keeping a sharp 
lookout for any signs of a house or stream of 
water. We had gone five or six miles, and were 
descending into a little valley, when there came 
a loud whinny from Old Blacky. Sure enough, 
at the foot of the hill was a stream of water. 
The pony ran toward it on a gallop, and as 
soon as we could unhitch the others they joined 
her. They all waded in, and drank till we 
feared they would never be able to wade out 
again. Then they stood taking little sips, and 
letting their lips rest just on the surface and 
blinking dreamily. We knew that they stood 
almost as much in need of food as of water, 
as they had had nothing but the hay since the 
noon before. There was a field of corn half a 
mile away, on a side-hill, but no house in sight. 

" Fm going after some of that corn," I said 
to the others. "If I can t find the owner to 
buy it, then I ll help myself." 


I mounted the pony and rode away. There 
was still no house in sight at the field, and I 
filled a sack and returned. The horses went at 
their breakfast eagerly. But twice during the 
meal they stopped and plunged in the brook 
and took other long drinks ; and at the end 
Old Blacky lay down in a shallow place and 
rolled, and came out looking like a drowned 

In the meantime Jack had got the grouse 
ready, and we ate it about as ravenously as the 
horses did their corn. We had just finished, 
and were talking about going, when a tall man 
on a small horse almost covered with saddle 
rode up, and began to talk cheerfully on va 
rious topics. After a while he said : 

"Well, boys, was that good corn ?" 

We all suspected the truth instantly. 

"He did it!" exclaimed Jack, pointing at 
me. "He did it all alone. We re going to 
give him up to the authorities at the next 

The man laughed, and said : " Don t do it. 
He may reform." 

There seemed to-be but one thing to do, so I 
said : "It was your corn, I suppose. Our only 


excuse is that we were out of corn. Tell us 
how much it is, and we ll pay you for it." 

"Not a cent/ answered the man, firmly. 
" It s all right. I ve travelled through them 
Sand Hills myself, and I know IIOAV it is. You re 
welcome to all you took, and you can have an 
other sackful if you want to go after it." 

I thanked him, but told him that we ex 
pected to get some feed at Gordon, the next 
town. After wishing us good -luck, he rode 

We started on, and made but a short stop for 
noon, near Gordon. We found ourselves in a 
fairly well -settled country, though the oldest 
settlers had been there but two or three years. 
The region was called the Antelope Flats, and 
was quite level, with occasional ravines. The 
trail usually ran near the railroad, and that 
night we camped within three or four rods of 
it. Long trains loaded with cattle thundered 
by all night. We were somewhat nervous lest 
Old Blacky should put his shoulder against 
the wagon while we slept, and push it on 
the track in revenge for the poor treatment 
we gave him in the Sand Hills, but the plan 
didn t happen to occur to him. It was at this 



camp that we encountered a remarkable echo 
ing well. It was an ordinary open well, forty 
or fifty feet deep, near a neighboring house, 
but a word spoken above it came back re 
peated a score of times. We failed to account 
for it. 

The next forenoon we jogged along much 
the same as usual, and stopped for noon at 
Rushville. This was not far from the Pine 
Ridge Indian Agency and the place called 
Wounded Knee, where the battle with the 
Sioux was fought three or four years later. 
We saw a number of Indians here, and though 
they came up to Ollie s idea of what an Indian 
should be a little better than the one that rode 
with us, they still did not seem to be just the 

"I don t think/ he said, "that they ought 
to smoke cigarettes." 

" It does look like rather small business for 
an Indian, doesn t it ?" answered Jack. "But 
then smoking cigarettes is small business for 
anybody. What s your idea of what an Indian 
ought to smoke ?" 

"Well, Fm not sure he ought to smoke any 
thing, except of course the peace-pipe occa- 




sionally. And lie oughtn t to smoke that very 
much, because an Indian shouldn t make peace 
very often." 

" Right on the war-path all the time, nour 
ishing a scalping - knife above his head, and 


whooping his teeth loose that s your notion 
of an Indian/ 

"Well, I don t know as that is exactly it," 
returned Ollie, doubtfully. " But it seems to 
me these are hardly right. Their clothes seem 
to be just like white people s." 

"I don t know about that," said Jack. "I 
saw one when I went around to the post-office 
wearing bright Indian moccasins, a pair of 
soldier s trousers, a fashionable black coat, and a 
cowboy hat. I never saw a white man dressed 
just like that." 

"Well, I think they ought to wear some 
feathers, anyhow/ 7 insisted Ollie. "An Indian 
without feathers is just like a a turkey with 
out em." 

The Indians were idling all over town, big, 
lazy, villanous- looking fellows, and very fre 
quently they were smoking cigarettes, and often 
they were dressed much as Jack had described, 
though their clothes varied a good deal. There 
were two points which they all had in common, 
however they were all dirty, and all carried 
bright, clean repeating -rifles. We wondered 
why they needed the rifles, since there was no 
game in the neighborhood. 


The chief business of Eushville seemed to be 
shipping bones. We went over to the railroad 
to watch the process. There were great piles 
of them about the station, and men were load 
ing them into freight-cars. 

"What s done with them?" we asked of a man. 

"Shipped East, and ground up for fertilizer/ 
he answered. 

"Where do they all come from ?" 

"Picked up about the country everywhere. 
Men make a business of gathering them and 
bringing them in at so much a load. Supply 
won t last many months longer, but it s good 
business now." 

They were chiefly buffalo bones, though there 
were also those of the deer, elk, and antelope. 
We saw some beautiful elk antlers, and many 
broad white skulls of the buffalo, some of them 
still with the thick black horns on them. As 
we were watching the loading of the bones 
Ollie suddenly exclaimed : 

"Oh, see the pretty little deer \" 

We looked around, and saw, in the front 
yard of a house, a young antelope, standing by 
the fence, and also watching the bone-men as 
they worked. 


"It is a beautiful creature, isn t it ?" said 
Jack. "And how happy and contented it 
looks !" 

"I guess it s happy because it isn t in the 
bone-pile/ said Ollie. 

We went over to it, and found it so tame 
that it allowed Ollie to pet it as much as he 
pleased. The man who owned it told us that 
he had found it among the Sand Hills, with 
one foot caught in a little bridge on the 
railroad, where it had apparently tried to 
cross. He rescued it just before a train came 

We left Rushville after a rather longer stop 
for noon than we usually made. Nothing 
worthy of mention occurred during the after 
noon, and that night we camped on the edge 
of another small town, called Hay Springs, 

" I don t know," said Jack, " whether or not 
they really have springs here that flow with 
water and hay, or how it got its funny name. 
If there are that kind of springs, I think it s a 
pity there can t be some of them in the Sand 

Jack went over town after supper for some 
postage-stamps, and came back quite excited. 


" Found it at last, Ollie !" he exclaimed. 
ee Grandpa Oldberry was right." 

" What a varmint ?" asked Ollie. 

"A genuine varmint,," answered Jack. "A 
regular painter. It s in a cage, to be sure, but 
it may get out during the night." 

We all went over to see it. It was in a big box 
back of a hotel, and the man in charge called 
it a mountain -lion, and said it was caught 
up in the Black Hills. "Right where we re 
going," whispered Ollie. The animal was,, I 
presume, really a jaguar, and was a big cat 
three or four feet long. 

We were off again the next morning, looking 
forward eagerly to the camp for the night, 
which we expected would be at Chadron, and 
where our course would change to the north 
into Dakota again, this time on the extreme 
western edge, and carry us up to the mountains. 
Most of the day we travelled through a rougher 
country, and saw many buttes steep -sided, 
flat-topped mounds; and in the neighborhood 
of Bordeaux the road wound among scattering 
pine-trees. We camped at noon near the house 
of a settler who seemed to have a dog farm, 
as the place was overrun with the animals. 



We needed some corn for the horses, and asked 
him if he had any to sell. He was a queer- 
looking man, with hair the color of molasses 
candy, and skim-milk eyes. 


"Waal, now, stranger, I jess reckon I have 
got some co n to sell," he said. " The only 



trouble with that there co n o mine is that it 
ain t shucked. If you wouldn t mind to go 
out into the field and shuck it out, we can jess 
make a deal right here." 

We finally gave him fifty cents for all our 
three sacks would hold, and he pointed out 
the field a quarter of a mile away and went 
hack to the house. We noticed that he very 
soon mounted a pony and rode away towards 
Hay Springs, but thought nothing of it. When 
we were ready to start we drove over to the 
cornfield to get what we had paid for. Jack 
put his head out of the wagon, took a long 
look, and said : 

"That s the sickest-looking cornfield / ever 
saw !" 

We got out, and found a sorry prospect. 
The corn was poor and scattering and choked 
with weeds. 

"And the worst of it," called Jack, as he 
waded out into the weeds, " is that it has been 
harvested about twelve times already. The 
scoundrel has been selling it to every man that 
came along for a month, and I don t believe 
there were three sackfuls in the whole field to 
start with." 


We went to work at it, and found that he 
was not far from right. 

"No wonder the old skeesicks went off to 
town soon as he got his money," I said. " He 
won t show himself back here till he is sure we 
have gone." 

We worked for an hour,, and managed to fill 
one bag with "nubbins/" and gave up, prom 
ising ourselves that we wouldn t be imposed 
upon in that way again. 

We reached Chadron in due time, and went 
into camp a little way beyond, on the banks of 
the White River, a stream which flows through 
Dakota and finally joins the Missouri. Our 
camp was on a little flat where the river bends 
around in the shape of a horseshoe. It seemed 
to be a popular stopping-place, and there were 
half a dozen other covered wagons in camp 
there. The number of empty tin cans scat 
tered about on that piece of ground must have 
run up into the thousands. But there had 
not been a mile of the road since we left Val 
entine which had not had from a dozen to sev 
eral hundred cans scattered along it, left by 
former "movers." We had contributed our 
share, including the gooseberry can. From 


the labels we noticed on the can windrow along 
the road it seemed that peaches and Boston 
baked beans were the favorite things consumed 
by the overland travellers, though there were 
a great many green-corn, tomato, and salmon 

" You can get every article of food in tin 
cans now," observed Jack one day, "except 
my pancakes. I m going to start a pancake 
cannery. I ll label my cans Jack s Cele 
brated Rattletrap Pancakes Warranted Free 
from Injurious Substances. Open this end. 
Soak two weeks before using/ 

It was a pretty camping-place on the little 
can-covered flat, and we sat up late, visiting 
w r ith our neighbors and talking about the Black 

" I think," said Jack, as we stumbled over 
the cans on our way to the Rattletrap, "that 
I ll go into the mining business up there my 
self. I ll just back the Blacksmith s Pet up 
to the side of a mountain, tickle his heels with 
a straw, and he ll have a gold-mine kicked out 
inside of five minutes." 



THE next day was Sunday, so we did not leave 
the White River camp till Monday morning. 
We found Chadron (pronounced Shadron) an 
extremely lively town,, in which all of the citi 
zens wore big hats and immense jingling Mexi 
can spurs. We had the big hats, but to be in 
fashion and not to attract attention we also got 
jingling spurs. 

" I shall wear em all night," said Jack, as he 
strapped his on. "Only dudes take off their 
spurs when they go to bed, and I m no dude." 

Our next objective point was Rapid City. 
It was a beautiful morning when we turned to 
the north. The sand had disappeared, and the 
soil was more like asphalt pavement. 

" The farmers fire their seed into the ground 
with six-shooters," said a man we fell in with 
on the road. "Very expensive for powder." 


" The soil s what you call gumbo,, isn t it ?" 
I said to him. 

"Yes. Works better when it s wet. One 
man can stick a spade into it then. Takes two 
to pull it out, though.-" 

It was not long before we passed the Dakota 
line, marked by a post and a pile of tin cans. 
Shortly before noon Ollie made a discovery. 

" What are those little animals ?" he cried. 
" Oh, I know prairie-dogs !" 

There was a whole town of them right beside 
the road, with every dog sitting on top of the 
mound that marked his home, and uttering his 
shrill little bark, and marking each bark by a 
peculiar -little jerk of his tail. 

(t Haw do you know they are prairie-dogs ?" 
asked Jack. 

"They had some of them in the. park at 
home," said Ollie. "But last fall they all went 
down in their burrows for the winter, and in 
the spring they didn t come up. Folks said 
they must have frozen to death." 

"Nonsense," said Jack. "They got turned 
around somehow, and in the spring dug down 
instead of digging up. They may come out in 
China yet if they have good-luck." 


"I can hardly swallow that," replied Ollie. 
"But, anyhow, these seem to be all right." 

There must have been three or four hundred 
of them, and not for a moment did one of 
them stop barking till Snoozer jumped out of 
the wagon and charged them, when, with one 
last bark, each one of them shot down his hole 
so quick that it was almost impossible to see 
him move. 

"Now that s just about the sort of game 
that Snoozer likes !" exclaimed Jack. "If they 
were badgers, or even woodchucks, you couldn t 
drive him at them." 

"I don t think there is much danger of his 
getting any of them," said Ollie. 

We called Snoozer back, and soon one of the 
little animals cautiously put up his head, saw 
that the coast was clear, gave one bark, and all 
the rest came up, and the concert began as if 
nothing had happened. 

" I suppose that was the mayor of the town 
that peeped up first ?" said Ollie. 

"Yes, or the chief of police," answered Jack. 

We camped that night by the bed of a dry 
creek, and watered the horses at a settler s 
house hajf a mile away. 


" That s the most beautiful place for a stream 
I ever saw," observed Jack. " If a man had a 
creek and no bed for it to run in, he d be 
awfully glad to get that." 

The next day was distinctly a prairie-dog 
day. We passed dozens of their towns, and 
were seldom out of hearing of their peculiar 

"I wonder/ said Ollie, " if the bark makes 
the tail go, or does the tail set off the bark." 

" Oh, neither," returned Jack. " They simply 
check off the barks with their tails. There s a 
National Prairie -Dog Barking Contest going 
on, and they are seeing who can yelp the most 
in a week. They keep count with their 

At the little town of Oelrichs we saw a num 
ber of Indians, since we were again near the 
reservation. One little girl nine or ten years old 
must have been the daughter of an important 
personage, since she was dre ssed in most gor 
geous clothes, all covered with beads and colored 
porcupine-quill-work. And at last Ollie saw 
an Indian Avearing feathers. Three eagle feath 
ers stuck straight up in his hair. He was 
standing outside of a log house looking in the 



window. By-and-by a young lady came to the 
door of the house, and as we were nearer than^ 
anybody else, she motioned us to come over. 
"I wish/ she said, "that you d please go 


around and ask Big Bear to go away. He 
keeps looking in the window and bothering the 

We stepped around the corner, and Jack 


said : " See here, neighbor Big Bear, you re im 
peding the cause of education." 

The Indian looked at him stolidly, but did 
not move. 

Teacher says vamoose heap bother pap- 
pooses," said Jack. 

The Indian grunted and walked away. 

" Nothing like understanding the lan 
guage/ boasted Jack, as we went back to the 

At noon we camped beside a stream, but 
thirty feet above it. There was a clay bank 
almost as hard as stone rising perpendicularly 
from the water s edge. With a pail and rope 
we drew up all the water we needed. In the 
afternoon we got our first sight of the Black 
Hills, like clouds low on the northern hori 
zon. About the same time we struck into the 
old Sidney trail, which, before the railroad 
had reached nearer points, was used in carry 
ing freight to the Hills in wagons. In some 
places it was half a mile wide and consisted of 
a score or more of tracks worn into deep ruts. 
There was a herd of several thousand Texas 
cattle crossing the trail in charge of a dozen 
men, and we waited and watched them go by. 


Ollie had never seen such a display of horns 

Shortly after this we came upon the first 
sage-bush which we had seen. It was queer 
gray stuff, shaped like miniature trees, and had 
the appearance of being able to get along with 
very little rain. 

Toward night we found ourselves winding- 
down among the hills to the Cheyenne Eiver. 
They were strange-looking hills, most of them 
utterly barren on their sides, which were nearly 
perpendicular, the hard soil standing almost as 
firm as rock. They were ribbed and seamed 
by the rain in fact, they were not hills at all, 
properly speaking, but small bluffs left by the 
washing out of the ravines by the rain and 
melting snows. Just as the sun was sinking 
among the distant hills we came to the river. 
It was shallow, only four or five yards wide, 
and we easily forded it and camped on the 
other side. The full moon was just rising over 
the eastern hills. There was not a sound to 
be heard except the gentle murmur of the 
stream and the faint rustle of the leaves on a 
few cottonwood- trees. There was plenty of 
driftwood all around, and after supper we built 


up the largest camp-fire we had ever had. The 
flame leaped up above the wagon -top, and 
drifted away in a column of sparks and smoke, 
while the three horses stood in the background 
with their heads close together munching their 
hay, and the four of us (counting Snoozer) lay 
on the ground and blinked at the fire. 

" This is what I call the proper thing/ re 
marked Jack, after some time, as he rolled 
over on his blanket and looked at the great 
round moon. 

" Yes," I said, " this will do well enough. 
But it would be pretty cool here if it wasn t 
for that fire/ 7 

"Yes, the nights are getting colder, that s 
certain. I was just wondering if that cover 
will withstand snow as well as it does rain ?" 

"Why," said Ollie, "do you think it s going 
to snow ?" 

"Not to-night," returned Jack. "But it 
may before we get out of the mountains. The 
snow comes pretty early up there sometimes. 
I think I ll get inside and share the bed with 
the rancher after this, and you and Snoozer 
can curl up in the front end of the wagon-box. 
It would be a joke if we got snowed in some- 


where, and had to live in the Rattletrap till 

" I wouldn t care if we could keep warm/ 
said Ollie. I like living in it better than in 
any house I ever saw." 

" I m afraid it would get a little monotonous 
along in March/ 7 laughed Jack. "Though I 
think myself it s a pretty good place to live. 
Stationary houses begin to seem tame. I hope 
the trip won t spoil us all, and make vagabonds 
of us for the rest of our lives." 

We were reluctant to leave this camp the 
next morning, but knew that we must be mov 
ing 011. It was but a few miles to the town of 
Buffalo Gap, and we passed through it before 

" There are more varmints," cried Ollie, as 
we were driving through the town. They were 
in a cage in front of a store, and we stopped 
to see them. 

" What are they ?" one of us asked the man 
who seemed to own them. 

"Bob-cats," he answered, promptly. 

" Must be a Buffalo Gap name for wild-cats," 
said Jack, as we drove on, "because that s 
what they are." 


Ollie had gone into a store to buy some cans 
of fruit, and when he came out he looked much 

"I think," he said, "that that man must be 
crazy, or something. There were thirty cents 
coming to me in change. He tossed out a 
quarter and said, Two bits/ and then a dime 
and said, s Short bit thank you/ and closed 
up the drawer and started off. I didn t want 
more than was coming to me, so I handed out 
a nickle and said, There, that makes it right. 7 
The man looked at it, laughed, and pushed it 
back, and said, Keep it, sonny ; I haven t got 
any chickens. Now, Fd like to know what it 
all meant." 

We both laughed, and when Jack recovered 
his composure he said : 

" It means simply that we re getting out into 
the mining country, where no coin less than a 
dime circulates. He didn t happen to have 
three dimes, so the best he could do was to 
give you either twenty-five or thirty-five cents, 
and he was letting you have the benefit of the 
situation by making it thirty-five. A bit is 
twelve and a half cents, and a short bit is ten 
cents. A two-bit piece is a quarter." 



" Yes ; but what about his not keeping 
chickens ?" 

" Oh, that was simply his humorous way of 
saying that all coins under a dime are fit only 
for chicken-feed." 

We camped that night beside the trail near 
a little log store. " What you want to do," 
said the man in charge, " is to take your horses 
down there behind them trees to park em for 
the night. Good feed down there." 

" To park/ " said Jack, in a low voice. 
"New and interesting verb. He means turn 
em out to grass. We mustn t appear green." 
Then he said to the man : 

" Yes, we reckoned we d park em down 
there to-night." 

The next day was the coldest we had expe 
rienced, and we were glad to walk to keep 
warm. We were getting among the smaller of 
the hills, with their tops covered with the pe 
culiarly dark pine-trees which give the whole 
range its name. We camped at night under a 
high bank which afforded some protection from 
the chilly east wind. Now that we were all 
sleeping in the wagon there was no room in 
it to store the sacks of horserfeed which we 


had., and we knew that if we put them outside 
Old Blacky would eat them up before morning. 

" There s nothing to do," said Jack, "but to 
carry them around up on that bank and hang 
them down with ropes. Leave "em about 
twelve feet from the bottom and ten feet from 
the top, and I don t think the Pet can get 

We accordingly did so, and went to bed with 
the old scoundrel standing and looking up at 
the bags wistfully, though he had just had all 
that any horse needed for supper. But in the 
morning we found that he had clambered up 
high enough to get hold of the bottom of one 
of the sacks and pull it down and devour fully 
half of it. He was, as Jack said, "the worst 
horse that ever looked through a collar." 

But the weather in the morning gave us 
more concern than did the foraging of the 
ancient Blacky. It was even colder than the 
night before, and the raw east wind was rawer, 
and with it all there was a drizzling rain. It 
was not a hard rain, but one of the kind that 
comes down in small clinging drops and blows 
in your face in a fine spray. Jack got break 
fast in the wagon, and we ate the hot cakes 



\ ;! "r> ^~ 

4 *x 


and warmed-over grouse with a good relish. 
Then we loaded in what was left of the horse- 
feed, and started. 

It was impossible to keep warm even by 
walking, but we plodded on and made the 
best of it. The road was hilly and stony; but 


by noon we had got beyond the rain, and for 
the rest of the way it was dry even if cold. 
The hills among which we were winding grew 
constantly higher, and the quantity of pine 
timber upon their summits greater. Just as 
dusk was beginning to creep down we came 
around one which might fairly have been 
called a small mountain, and saw Rapid City 
spread out before us, the largest town we 
had seen since leaving Yankton. We skirted 
around it, and came to camp under another 
hill and near a big stone quarry a half-mile 
west of town. There was a mill-race just 
below us, and plenty of water. We fed the 
horses and had supper. There was a road not 
much over a hundred yards in front of our 
camp, along which, through the darkness, we 
could hear teams and wagons passing. 

"I wonder where it goes to ?" said Ollie. 

"I think it s the great Deadwood trail over 
which all the supplies are drawn to the mines 
by mule or horse or ox teams," said Jack. 
"There s no railroad, you know, and every 
thing has to go by wagon goods and supplies 
in, and a great deal of ore out. Let s go over 
and see." 


The moon was not yet risen and the sky was 
covered with clouds, so it was extremely dark. 
We took along our lantern, but it did not make 
much impression on the darkness. When we 
reached the road we found that everywhere we 
stepped we went over our shoe-tops in the soft 
dust. We heard a deep, strange creaking noise, 
mixed with what sounded like reports of a pis 
tol, around the bend in the trail. Soon we 
could make out what seemed to be a long herd 
of cattle winding towards us, with what might 
have been a circus tent swaying about behind 

" What s coming ?" we asked of a boy who 
was going by. 

" Old Henderson," he replied. 

"What s he got?" 

"Just his outfit." 

" But what are all the cattle ?" 

k> His team." 

"Not one team ?" 

"Yes; eleven yoke." 

" Twenty-two oxen in one team ?" 

"Yes ; and four wagons." 

The head yoke of oxen was now opposite to 
us, swaying about from side to side and swirl- 


ing their tails in the air, but still pressing for 
ward at the rate of perhaps a mile and a half 
or two miles an hour. Far back along the 
procession we could dimly see a man walking 
in the dust beside the last yoke, swinging a 
long whip which cracked in the air like a rifle. 
Behind rolled and swayed the four great can 
vas-topped wagons, tied behind one another. 
We watched the strange procession go by. 
There was only one man, without doubt Hen 
derson, grizzled and seemingly sixty years old. 
The wagon wheels were almost as tall as he 
was, and the tires were four inches wide. The 
last wagon disappeared up the trail in the dust 
and darkness. 

" Well/ said Jack, " I think when I start 
out driving at this time of night with twenty- 
two guileless oxen and four ten - ton wagons 
that I ll want to get somewhere pretty badly." 

Then we went back to the Rattletrap. 


AFTER we got back to the Rattletrap we 
promised ourselves plenty of sport the next 
day watching the freighters with their long 
teams and wagon trains. Jack could not re 
cover from his first glimpse of Henderson. 

" Rather a neat little turnout to take a young 
lady out driving with," he said, after we had 
gone to bed. "Twenty -two oxen and four 
wagons. Plenty of room. Take along her 
father and mother. And the rest of the fam 
ily. And her school-mates. And the whole 
town. Good team to go after the doctor with 
if somebody was sick mile and a half an hour. 
That trotting-cow man at Yanktoii ought to 
come up here and show Henderson a little 
speed. Still, I dare say Henderson could beat 
Old Browny on a good day for sleeping, and 
when he didn t have Blacky to pull him along." 


But we got small sight of the trail the next 
day., as the rain we had left behind came upon 
us again in greater force than ever. It began 
toward morning, and when we looked out, just 
as it was becoming light, we found it coming 
down in sheets "cold, wet sheets," as Ollie 
said, too. The horses stood huddled together, 
wet and chilled. We got on our storm-coats 
and led them up to a house a sort distance 
away, which proved to be Smith s ranch. There 
we found large, dry sheds, under which we put 
them and where they were very glad to go. 
Once back in the cabin of the Rattletrap, we 
scarcely ventured out again. 

It certainly wasn t a very cheerful day. We 
would not have minded the rain much, because 
we were dry enough ; but the cold was dis 
agreeable, and we were obliged to wear our 
overcoats all day. We could watch the road 
from the front of the wagon, and saw a num 
ber of freighters go by, usually with empty 
wagons, as it soon became too muddy for those 
with loads. We saw one fourteen-ox team with 
four wagons, and another man with twelve oxen 
and three wagons. There were also a number 
of mule teams, and we noticed one of twelve 


mules and five wagons, and several of ten 
mules and three or four wagons. With these 
the driver always rode the nigh wheel animal 
that is, the left-hand rear one. 

"I m going to put a saddle on Old Blacky 
and ride him after this," said Jack. "Bound 
to be in the fashion. Wonder how Henderson 
is getting along in the mud ? A mile in two 
hours, I suppose. Must be impossible for him 
to see the head oxen through this rain." 

The downpour never stopped all day. We 
tried letter-writing, but it was too cold to hold 
the pen ; and Jack s efforts at playing the banjo 
proved equally unsuccessful. We fell back on 
reading, but even this did not seem to be very 
satisfactory. So we finally settled down to 
watching the rain and listening to the wind. 

When evening came we shut down the front 
of the cover and tried to warm up the cabin a 
little by leaving the oil -stove burning, but it 
didn t seem to make much difference. So we 
soon went to bed, rather damp, somewhat cold, 
and a little dispirited. I think we all stayed 
awake for a long time listening to the beating 
of the rain on the cover, and wondering about 
the weather of the morrow. 


When we awoke in the morning it did not 
take long to find out about the weather. The 
rain had ceased and the sky was clear, but it 
was colder. Outside we found ice on the little 
pools of water in the footprints of the horses. 
We were stiff and cold. Some of us may have 
thought of the comforts of home, but none of 
us said anything about them. 

"This is what I like," said Jack. "Don t 
feel Fm living unless I find my shoes frozen in 
the morning. Like to break the ice when I go 
to wash my face and hands, and to have my 
hair freeze before I can comb it." 

But we observed that he kept as close to 
the camp-fire which we started as any of us. 
We went up to Smith s to look after the 
horses. While Jack and I were at the sheds 
Ollie stayed in the road watching the freight 
teams. A big swarthy man, over six feet in 
height, came along, and after looking over 
the fence at Smith s house some time, said to 
Ollie : 

" Do you s pose Smith s at home ?" 

" Oh, I guess so," answered Ollie. 

" I d like to see him," went on the man, 
with an uneasy air. 



" Probably you ll find him eating breakfast," 
said Ollie. 

"I don t like to go in," said the man. 

"Why not?" * 

"I m I m afraid of the dog." 

"Oli!" replied Ollie. "Well, I m not. Come 
on," and he stalked ahead very bravely, while 
the man followed cautiously behind. 



" He s a Mexican/" said Smith in explana 
tion afterwards. " All Mexicans are afraid of 

" That s a pretty broad statement/ said 
Jack, after Smith had gone. " I believe, if 
there was a good reward offered,, that I could 
find a Mexican who isn t afraid of dogs. 
Though perhaps it s the hair they re afraid 
of; Mexican dogs don t have any, you know." 

" Don t any of them have hair ?" asked Ollie. 

"Not a hair/ answered his truthful uncle. 
"I don t suppose a Mexican dog would know 
a hair if he saw it." 

" I think that s a bigger story than Smith s/ 
said Ollie. 

It was Sunday, and we spent most of the 
day in the wagon, though we took a long walk 
up the valley in the afternoon. The first 
thing Ollie said the next morning was, "When 
are we going to see the buffaloes ?" 

Smith had been telling us about them the 
evening before. They were down -town, and 
belonged to a Dr. McGillicuddie. They had 
been brought in recently from the Rosebud 
Indian Agency, and had been captured some 
time before in the Bad Lands. 


We followed the trail, now as deep with 
mud as it had been with dust, meeting many 
freighters on the way, and found the buffaloes 
near the Deadwood stage barn. 

" See !" exclaimed Ollie ; " there they are, in 
the yard." 

"Don t say yard/" returned Jack; "say 
corral/ with a good, strong accent on the 
last syllable. A yard is a corral, and a farm a 
ranch, and a revolver a six-shooter and a lot 
more. Don t be green, Oliver." 

" Oh, bother !" replied Ollie. " There s ten 
of em. See the big fellow !" 

" They re nice ones, that s so," answered 
Jack. "I d like to see the Yankton man we 
heard about try to milk that cow over in the 

After we had seen the buffaloes we wandered 
about town and jingled our spurs, which were 
quite in the fashion. We encountered a big 
crowd in front of one of the markets, and 
found that a hunter had just come in from the 
mountains to the west with the carcass of the 
biggest bear ever brought into Kapid City. 
Some said it was a grizzly, and others a silver- 
tip, and one man tried to settle the difficulty 


by saying that there wasn t any difference be 
tween them. But it was certainly a big bear, 
and filled the whole wagon-box. Ollie sidled 
through the crowd and asked so many ques 
tions of the man, who was named Reynolds, 
that he good-naturedly gave Ollie one of 
the largest of the claws. It was five inches 

At noon we went down to the camp of. the 
freighters on the outskirts of town, near Rapid 
Creek. There must have been fifty "outfits" 
Jack said that was the right word and sev 
eral hundred mules, as many oxen, and a few 
horses. The animals were, most of them, wan 
dering about wherever they pleased, the mules 
and horses taking their dinner out of noseT 
bags, and the mules keeping up a gentle exer 
cise by kicking at one another. It seemed a 
hopeless confusion, but the men were sitting 
about on the ground, calmly cooking their din 
ners over little camp-fires. One man, whom 
we had got acquainted with in the morning 
at Smith s, asked us to have dinner with him, 
and made the invitation so pressing that we 
accepted. He had several gallons of coffee 
and plenty of bacon and canned fruit, and a 




peculiar kind of bread which he had baked 

" Fm a -thinking," he said, "there ain t 
enough saFratus in that there bread ; but I m 
a poor cook, anyhow." 


The bread seemed to us to be already com 
posed chiefly of saleratus, so his apology struck 
us as unnecessary. He very kindly wrote 
out the receipt on a shingle for Jack, but I 
stole it away from him after we got home and 


burned it in the camp - fire ; so we escaped 

" Your pancakes are bad enough," I said to 
him. " We don t care to try your saleratus 

Jack was a good deal worked up about the 
loss of his receipt, and experimented a long 
time to produce something like the freight 
er s bread without it ; but as Snoozer wouldn t 
try the stuff he made, and he was afraid to do 
so himself, nothing came of it. 

We enjoyed our dinner with the man, how 
ever, and Jack added further to his vocabulary 
in finding that the drivers of the ox teams 
were called " bullwhackers," and those of the 
mules and horses " muleskinners." 

In the afternoon we climbed the hill above 
our camp. It gave us a long view off to the 
east across the level country, while away to 
the west were the mountain-peaks rising high 
er and higher. It was still cold, and the raw 
northeast wind moaned through the pines in a 
way that made us think of winter. 

We went to bed early that night, so as to get 
a good start for Deadwood the next day. We 
brought the horses down from the ranch in 


the evening, blanketed them,, and stood them 
out of the wind among some trees. 

"Four o clock must see us rolling out of 
our comfortable beds and getting ready to 
start/ said Jack, as we turned in. " We must 
play we are freighters." 

Jack planned better than he knew; we really 
"rolled out" in an exceedingly lively manner 
at three o clock. We were sleeping soundly at 
that hour, when we were awakened by the mo 
tion of the wagon. Jack and I sat up. It was 
swaying from side to side, and we could hear 
the wheels bumping on the stones. The back 
end was considerably lower than the front. 

" It s running down the bank !" I cried, and 
we both plunged through the darkness for the 
brake-handle. We fell over Ollie and Snooz- 
er, and were instantly hopelessly tangled. It 
seemed an age, with the wagon swaying more 
and more, before we found the handle. Jack 
pushed it up hard, we heard the brake grind 
on the wheels outside ; then there was a great 
bump and splash, and the wagon tilted half 
over and stopped. We found ourselves lying 
on the side of the cover, with cold water rising 
about us. We were not long in getting out, 


and discovered that the Rattletrap was cap 
sized in the mill-race. 

"Old Blacky did it !" cried Jack, as he 
danced around and shook his wet clothes. " I 
know he did. The old sinner I" 

We got out the lantern and lit it. Only the 
hind end of the wagon was really in the race ; 
one front wheel still clung to the bank, and 
the other was up in the air. Ollie got in and 
began to pass things out to Jack, while I went 
up the hill after the horses. Jack was right. 
Old Blacky was evidently the author of our 
misfortune. He had broken loose in some 
manner, and probably begun his favorite opera 
tion of making his toilet on the corner of the 
wagon by rubbing against it. The brake had 
carelessly been left off, he had pushed the 
wagon back a few feet, and it had gone over 
the bank. I soon had the harness on the 
horses, and got them down the hill. We 
hitched them to the hind wheel with a long 
rope, Jack wading in the water to his waist, 
and pulled the wagon upright. Then we at 
tached them to the end of the tongue, and 
after hard work drew it out of the race. By 
this time we were chilled through and through. 


Our beds and nearly everything we had were 
soaking with water. 

" How do you like it, Uncle Jack ?" in 
quired Ollie. " Do you feel that you are living 
now ?" 

Jack s teeth were chattering. " Y yes/ he 
said; "but I won t be if we don t get a fire 
started pretty quick." 

There were some timbers from an old bridge 
near by, and we soon had a good fire, around 
which we tramped in a procession till our 
clothes were fairly dry. The wind was chilly, 
and it was a dark, cloudy morning. The un 
fortunate Snoozer had gone down with the rest 
of us, and was the picture of despair, till Ollie 
rubbed him with a dry corner of a blanket, and 
gave him a good place beside the fire. 

By the time two or three hours had elapsed 
we began to feel partially dry, and decided to 
start on, relying on exercise to keep ourselves 
warm. We had had breakfast in the meantime, 
and, on the whole, were feeling rather cheerful 
again. We opened the cover and spread out 
the bedding, inside and outside, and hung 
some of it on a long pole which we stuck into 
the wagon from the rear. Altogether we pre- 


sented a rather funny appearance as we started 
out along the trail, but no one paid much at 
tention to us. The freighters were already 
astir, and we were constantly passing or meet 
ing their long trains. Among others we passed 
Eugene Brooks, the man with whom we had 
taken dinner. We told him of our mishap, 
and he laughed and said : 

"That s nothing in this country. Some- 
thing "s always happening here which would 
kill folks anywhere else. You stay here awhile 
and you ll be as tough as your old black horse/ 7 

Brooks had an outfit of five spans of mules 
and two wagons. We staye d with him a half- 
hour, and then went on. As we could not 
reach Deadwood that day, he advised us to 
camp that night where the trail crossed Thun 
der Butte Creek, a branch of La Belle Fourche. 

The trail led for the most part through val 
leys or along the sides of hills, and was gen 
erally not far from level, though there was, of 
course, a constant though hardly perceptible 
rise as we got farther into the mountains. We 
camped at noon at Elk Creek, and made further 
progress at drying our household effects. We 
pressed on during the afternoon, and passed 


through the town of Sturgis, where we laid in 
some stores of provisions to take the place of 
those spoiled by the water, and also a quantity 
of horse-feed. Later we congratulated our 
selves on our good-luck in doing this. 

As the afternoon wore away we found our 
selves getting up above the timber-line. The 
mountains began to shut in our view in all di 
rections, and the valleys were narrowing. As 
night drew nearer, Jack said : 

" Seems to me it s about time we got to this 
Thunder Butte Creek. Gene said that if we 
passed Sturgis we d have to go on to that if we 
wanted water." 

We soon met a man, and inquired of him 
the distance to the desired stream. "Two 
miles," he replied, promptly. We went on as 
much as a mile and met another man, to whom 
we put the same question. " Three miles," he 
answered, with great decision. 

" That creek seems to be retreating," said 
Jack, after the man had gone on. " We ve got 
to hurry and catch it, or it will run clean into 
Deadwood and crawl down a gold mine." 

It was growing dark. We forged ahead for 
another mile, and by this time it was quite as 


dark as it was going to be, with a cloudy sky, 
and mountains and pines shutting out half of 
that. I was walking ahead with the lantern, 
and came to a place where the trail divided. 

"The road forks here," I called. "Which 
do you suppose is right ?" 

" Which seems to be the most travelled ?" 
asked Jack. 

"Can t see any difference," \ replied. " We ll 
have to leave it to the instinct of the horses." 

"Yes, I d like to put myself in the grasp of 
Old Blacky s instinct. The old scoundrel 
would go wrong if he knew which was right." 

" Well," I returned, "come on and see which 
way he turns, and then go the other way." 
(Jack always declared that the old fellow 
understood what I said.) 

He drove up to the forks, and Blacky turned 
to the right. Jack drew over to the left, and 
we went up that road. We continued to go up 
it for fully three miles, though we soon became 
convinced that it was wrong. It constantly 
grew narrower and apparently less travelled. 
We were soon winding along a mountain-side 
among the pines, and around and above and 
below great rocks. 


"We ll go till we find a decent place to 
camp, and then stop for the night/ said Jack. 

We finally came to a little level bench cov 
ered with giant pines, and we could hear water 
beyond. I went on with the lantern, and found 
a small stream leaping down a gulch. 

" This is the place to stop/ I said, and we 
soon had our camp established, and a good fire 
roaring up into the tree-tops. Ollie found 
plenty of dry pine wood, and we blanketed the 
horses and stood them under a protecting ledge. 
It was cold, and the wind roared down the 
gulch and moaned in the pines, but we scarcely 
felt it below. We finished drying our bedding 
and had a good supper. Jack got out his 
banjo and tried to compete with the brook and 
the pines. We went to bed feeling that we 
were glad we had missed the road, since it had 
brought so delightful a camping-place. 

Ollie was the first to wake in the morning. 
It was quite light. 

"What makes the cover sag down so ?" he 

Jack opened his eyes, reached up with the 
whipstock and raised it. Something slid off 
the outside with a rush. 


" Open the front and you ll see/ answered 

Ollie did so, and we all looked out. The 
ground was deep with snow, and it was still 
falling in great feathery flakes. Old Blacky 
was loose, and looked in at us with a wicked 
gleam in his eyes. 



" YOU RE a miserable, sneaking, treacher 
ous old equine scoundrel !" cried Jack, shak 
ing his fist violently at Old Blacky. " You 
knew you were making us come the wrong 

Old Blacky answered never a word, but 
turned, hit the wagon -tongue a kick, and 
joined the other horses. 

"Well, close down the front and let s talk 
this thing over," said Jack. "In the first 
place, we are snowed in." 

" In the second place," said I, "we may stay 
snowed in a week." 

" I don t think we re prepared for that" said 
Ollie, very solemnly. 

"Let s see," went on Jack. " There are two 
sacks of ground feed under Ollie s bed. By 
putting the horses on rather short rations that 


ought to last pretty nearly or quite a week. 
But for hay we re not so well provided. There s 
one big bundle under the wagon, if Blacky 
hasn t eaten it up. The pony won t need any., 
because she knows how to paw down to the dry 
grass. The others don t know how to do this, 
and the hay will last them, after a fashion, for 
about three days." 

" Perhaps by that time the pony will have 
taught them how to paw," I said. 

"Wouldn t be surprised," returned Jack. 
" Perhaps b} 7 that time we ll all be glad to learn 
from her. We ve got flour enough to last a 
fortnight, so we needn t be afraid of running 
out of water-pancakes at least. You don t 
grow fat on em, but, on the other hand, there 
is no gout lurking in a water -pancake as I 
make it." 

" No, Jack, that s so," I said, feelingly. 

"We ve got enough bacon for several meals, 
a can of chicken, and two cans of beans. Also 
a loaf of bread and a pound of crackers. Then 
there s three cans of fruit, a dozen potatoes, six 
eggs, a quart of milk, and half a pound of 
pressed figs. After that we ll paw with the 


" I wonder if we couldn t get some game ?" 
inquired Ollie. 

" Snow-birds, maybe," said Jack. " Or per 
haps an owl. I ve heard b iled owl spoken of." 

After all, the prospect was not so bad. Be 
sides, it was so early in the season that it did 
not seem at all likely that we should be snow 
bound a week. Still, we knew little about the 
mountain climate. 

We got 011 our overcoats and went out and 
gave the horses their breakfast. Old Blacky 
was still cross, but Jack contented himself by 
calling him a few- names. We also got up what 
wood we could and piled it against the wagon, 
for use in case our kerosene became exhausted, 
though we decided to cook in the wagon for 
the present. The snow was seven or eight 
inches deep, and still falling rapidly. After 
breakfast we took the pony down to a little 
open flat and turned her loose. The old in 
stinct of her wild days came back to her, and 
she began to paw away the snow and gnaw at 
the scanty grass beneath. 

After giving the other horses a little hay we 
returned to the wagon, where we stayed most 
of the day. I m afraid we were a little fright- 


ened by the prospect. Of course, we knew that 
if it came to the worst we could leave the wag 
on and make our way back along the trail on 
foot, but we did not want to do that. But as 
for getting the wagon back along the narrow 
road, now blotted out by the snow, we knew it 
would be foolish to attempt it. It was not 
very cold in the wagon, and Jack played the 
banjo, and we were fairly cheerful. The snow 
kept coining down all day, and by night it was 
a foot deep. The pony came in from the flat 
as it began to grow dark, and we gave the 
horses their supper and left them in the shel 
ter of the rocks. Then we brushed the snow 
oif the top of the cover, as we had done several 
times before, and went in to spend the evening 
by the light of the lantern. When bedtime 
came, Jack looked up and said : 

" The cover doesn t seem to sag down. It 
must have stopped snowing." 

We looked out, and found that it was so. 
We could even see the stars ; and, better yet, 
it did not seem to be growing colder. We 
went to bed feeling encouraged. 

The next morning the sun peeped in at us 
through the long trunks of the pines, and Ollie 


soon discovered that the wind was from the 

"Unless it turns cold again, this will fix the 
snow/ said Jack. 

He was right, and it soon began to thaw. 
By noon the little stream in the gulch was a 
torrent, and before night patches of bare ground 
began to appear. We decided not to attempt to 
leave camp that day, but the next morning saw 
us headed back along the tortuous road. In 
two hours we were again on the main trail. 
Just as we turned in, Eugene Brooks came 
along, having also been delayed by the snow, 
though the fall where he was had not been 
nearly so great. Gene laughed at us, and told 
us that we had been following a trail to some 
lead mines which had been abandoned several 
months before. 

Half a mile farther on we came to the Thun 
der Butte Creek which we had sought. The 
water was almost blood-red, which Gene told 
us came from the gold stamp - mills on its up 
per course. If the water had been gray it 
would have indicated silver-mining. Just be 
yond we met the Deadwood Treasure Coach. 
It was an ordinary four -horse stage, without 


passengers, but carrying two guards, each with 
a very short double-barrelled shot-gun resting 
across his lap. The stage was operated by the 
express company, and was bringing out the 
gold bricks from the mines near Deadwood. 

"I suppose," said Ollie, musingly, "if any 
body tried to rob the coach, those fellows would 
shoot with their guns ?" 

" Oh no," replied Jack. " Oh no ; they car 
ry those guns to fan themselves with on hot 
days." But OJlie did not seem to be misled by 
this astonishing information. 

As we went on the road grew constantly 
more mountainous. Sometimes the trail ran 
along ledges, and sometimes near roaring 
streams and waterfalls, and the great pine- 
trees were everywhere. We passed two grizzly 
old placer - miners working just oif the trail, 
and stopped and watched them "pan out" a 
few shovelfuls of dirt. They were rewarded 
by two or three specks of gold, and seemed 
satisfied. Gene told us afterward that one of 
them was an old California 7 49er, who had 
used the same pan in every State and Terri 
tory of the West. 

It was a little after noon when we drove into 



Deadwood the last point outward bound at 
which the Rattletrap expected to touch. It 
was a larger town than Rapid City, and was 
wedged in a little gulch between two moun 
tains,, with the White Wood Creek rushing 
along and threatening to wash away the main 
street. We noticed that the only way of reach 
ing many of the houses on the mountain -side 
was by climbing long nights of stairs. We 
drove on, and camped near a mill on the upper 
edge of town. 

In the afternoon we wandered about town, 
and, among other places, visited the many Chi 
nese stores. We also clambered up the moun 
tain-sides to the two cemeteries, which we 
could see far above the town. It seemed to us 
that on rather too many of the head - stones, 
(which were in nearly every case boards, by- 
the-way) it was stated that the person whose 
grave it marked was "assassinated by" so-and- 
so, giving the name of the assassin ; but these 
were of the old days, when no doubt there were 
a good many folks in Deadwood who left the 
town just as well off after they had been assas 
sinated. "Killed by Indians" was also the rec 
ord on some of the boards. Ollie was greatly 


interested in the Chinese graves, with dishes 
of rice and chicken on them, and colored pa 
pers covered with curious characters prayers, 
I suppose. We climbed on up to the White 
Eocks, almost at the top of the highest peak 
overlooking Deadwood, and had a good view 
of the town and gulch below, and of the great 
Bear Butte standing out alone and bold miles 
to the east. We were tired, and glad to go to 
bed as soon as we got back to the wagon. 

The next day we decided to visit Lead City 
(pronounced not like the metal, but like the 
verb to lead). Here were most of the big gold 
mines, including the great Homestake Mine. 
It was only two or three miles, and we drove 
over early. It was a strange town, perched on 
the side of a mountain, and consisted of small 
openings in the ground, which were the mines, 
and immense shed-like buildings, which con 
tained the ore-reducing works. The noise of 
the stamp-mills filled the whole town, and 
seemed to drown out and cover up everything 
else. We soon found that there was no hope 
of our getting into the mines. 

They d think you were spies for the other 
mines, or something of that sort," said a man 


to us. " Nobody can get down. Nobody knows 
where they are digging, and they don t mean 
that anybody shall. They may be digging un 
der their own property exclusively, and they 
may not. For all I know, they may be taking 
gold that belongs to me a thousand feet, more 
or less, under my back yard." 

"If I had a back yard here/ said Jack, 
after we had passed on, "I d put my ear to 
the ground once in a while and listen, and if 
I heard anybody burrowing under it Fd well 
I d yell scat at em." 

We found no difficulty in getting in the 
stamp-mills, and a man kindly told us much 
about them. 

" The Homestake Mills make up the largest 
gold - reducing plant in the world," said the 
man. "Where do you suppose the largest 
single stamp-mill in the world is ?" 

We guessed California. 

"No," he said; "it s in Alaska the Tread- 
well Mill." 

We decided that the stamp-mills were the 
noisiest place we were ever in. There were 
hundreds of great steel bars, three or four 
inches in diameter and a dozen feet long, 


pounding up and down at the same time on 
the ore and reducing it to powder. It was 
mixed with water, and ran away as thin red 
mud, the gold being caught by quicksilver. 
The openings of the shafts and tunnels were 
in or near the mills, and there were the small 
est cars and locomotives which we had ever 
seen going about everywhere on narrow tracks, 
carrying the ore. Ollie walked up to one of the 
locomotives and looked down at it, and said : 

"Why, it seems just like a Shetland -pony 
colt. I believe I could almost lift it." 

The engineer sat on a little seat on the back 
end, and seemed bigger than his engine. As 
we looked at them we constantly expected to 
see them tip up in front from the weight of 
the engineer. There was also a larger rail 
road, though still a narrow gauge, winding 
away for twenty miles along the tops of the 
hills, which was used principally for bringing 
wood for the engines and timbers for propping 
up the mines. 

We were walking along a connecting shed, 
and happened to look out a window, when we 
saw a four -foot stick of cord -wood shoot up 
fifty feet from some place behind us, and after 



sailing over a wide curve, like a " fly -ball," 
alight on a great pile of similar sticks on the 


lower ground, which was much higher than an 
ordinary house, and must have contained thou 
sands of cords. 


" Good gracious !" exclaimed Jack. "Wish I 
could throw a stick of wood like that fellow." 

Another and another shot after the first one 
in quick succession. Sometimes there were 
two almost together, and we noticed the big 
ger and heavier the stick the higher and far 
ther it was shot. We saw some almost a foot 
in diameter soaring like straws before the 

"What a baseball pitcher that man would 
make I" went on Jack, enthusiastically. " Think 
of his arm ! Look at that big one go it must 
weigh two hundred pounds I" 

"Let s get out of this shed and investigate 
the mystery/ I said. 

Outside it was all clear. The narrow-gauge 
wood railroad ended on the edge of the steep 
hill overlooking the mills. Down this was a 
long wooden chute, or flume, like a big trough, 
which for the last thirty or forty feet at its 
lower end curved upward. Men were unload 
ing wood from a train at the upper end. Each 
stick shot down the flume like lightning, up 
the short incline at the end, and soared away 
like a bird to the pile beyond and below the 
shed. A little stream of water trickled con- 


stantly down the chute to keep the friction *of 
the logs from setting it on fire. 

" That s the most interesting thing here/ 
said Jack. " I d like to send the Blacksmith s 
Pet down the thing and see what he would do. 
I ll wager he d kick the wood-pile all over the 
town after he alighted." 

We spent nearly the whole day in wandering 
about the stamp-mills. The great steam en 
gines which operated them were some of the 
largest we had ever seen. 

" And think/ observed Jack, " of the fact 
that all of this heavy machinery, including the 
big engines and the locomotives and cars, and, 
in fact, everything, was brought overland on 
wagons, probably most of it nearly three hun 
dred miles. No wonder people got to driving 
such teams as Henderson s." 

Toward night we returned to Deadwood by 
the way of Central City. Here were more 
great mines and mills, but they did not seem 
to be so prosperous, and part of the town was 
deserted, and consisted of nothing but empty 
houses. Just as the sun set we drove in 
through the Golden Gate, and cast anchor at 
our old camp near the mill. 


The next morning was wintry again, with 
snowflakes floating in the air. The ground 
was frozen, and the wind seemed to come 
through the wagon - cover with rather more 
freedom than we enjoyed. 

"It s time we began the return voyage/ 
said Jack. "We re a long way from home, 
and we won t get there any too soon if we go 
as fast as we can and take the shortest cut." 
So we started that afternoon. 

The shortest cut was to return to Rapid 
City, and then, instead of going south into 
Nebraska, to go straight east, through the 
Sioux Indian Reservation, crossing the Mis 
souri at Pierre, and then on across the settled 
country of eastern Dakota to Prairie Flower, 
over against the Minnesota line. 

We followed the same road between Dead- 
wood and Rapid City, with the exception that 
we turned out in one place, and went around 
by Fort Meade. Here we found a beautiful 
camping - place the first night near a little 
stream and great overhanging rocks, and not far 
from Bear Butte. We reached Rapid late the 
next night, which was Saturday, and stopped 
at the old camp near the mill-race. Here we 


stayed over Sunday, but Monday noon saw us 
under sail again. As we went through the 
town we stopped at the freighter s camp, and 
told Gene Brooks good-bye, and then drove 
away across the wide rolling plain to the east. 

Gene had warned us that we had a lonesome 
road before us to Pierre, one hundred and sev- 
enty miles, nearly all of it across the reserva 

"You ll follow the old freight trail all the 
way," he said, "but you may not see three 
teams the whole distance, because since the 
railroad got nearer it isn t used. You ll find 
an old stage station about every fifteen or sev 
enteen miles, with probably one man in charge. 
You may see a horse-thief or two, or something 
of that sort. S ciety ain t what it ought to be 
round a reservation gen rally." 

Just before the sun sank behind the moun 
tains, which lay like low black clouds to the 
west, we came to a little ranch standing alone 
on the prairie. The door was open, and it 
seemed to be deserted, though there was a 
rude bed inside. There was a good well of 
water, and we decided to camp near it for the 
night, especially as the grass was good. There 



was no other house in sight. Bedtime arrived, 
and no one came to the ranch. 

"I think Fll just sleep in that house to 
night," said Jack, "and see how it seems. I ll 


leave the door open, so as not to have too much 
luxury at first." 

So he went to bed in the shanty, taking 
Snoozer along, and leaving the wagon to Ollie 
and me. 


We must have been asleep three or four 
hours when I was awakened by the loud bark 
ing of a dog. I started up and began unfast 
ening the front end of the cover. Just then I 
heard the pony snort in terror ; and then fol 
lowed a shot from a gun and the sound of 
horses galloping away. As I put my head out, 
Jack called, excitedly : 

"Some men were trying to get the pony. 
They d have done it, too, if Snoozer hadn t 
barked and scared them away." 

I was out of the wagon by this time, and 
found the pony trembling at the end of her 
picket-line as near the wagon as she could get. 
Snoozer kept barking as if he couldn t stop. 

"Did they shoot at you, Jack ?" I asked. 

"No, I guess not. I think they just blazed 
away for fun. They went off toward the Res 
ervation. Some of Gene s poor s ciety, I sup 

It took half an hour to get the frightened 
pony and indignant dog quieted ; and perhaps 
it was longer than that before we again got to 



" SNOOZER shall have a pancake medal." 
This was the first thing Ollie and I heard in 
the morning, and it was Jack s voice address 
ing the hero of the night before. We speedily 
rolled out, and agreed with Jack that Snoozer 
must be suitably rewarded. He seemed fully 
to understand the importance of his action in 
barking at the right moment, and for the first 
morning on the whole trip he was up and about, 
waving his bushy tail with great industry, and 
occasionally uttering a detached bark, just to 
remind us of how he had done it. He walked 
around the pony several times, and looked at her 
with a haughty air, as much as to say, "Where 
would you be now if it hadn t been for me ?" 

" He shall have a pancake/ 7 continued Jack 
"the biggest and best pancake which the 
skilful hand of this cook can concoct." 


Jack proceeded to carry out his promise,, and 
when breakfast was ready presented a griddle- 
cake, all flowing with melted butter, to the 
dog, which was as big as could be made in the 

"I always knew," said Jack, "that Snoozer 
would do something some day. He s lazy, but 
he s got brains. He would never bark at the 
moon, because he knows the moon isn t doing 
anything wrong, but when it comes to horse- 
thieves it s different." 

Snoozer munched his pancake, occasionally 
stopping to give a grand swing to his tail and 
let off a little yelp of pure joy. 

As we were getting ready for a start, and 
speculating on the prospect for water, a man 
came along, riding a mule, and we asked him 
about it. 

" Yah, blenty vaters," said the man. " Doan 
need to dake no vaters along." 

"Any houses on the road ?" asked Jack. 

"Blenty houses," answered the stranger 
"houses, vaters, effery dings." 

We thanked him and started. Notwithstand 
ing this assurance, I had intended to fill a jug 
with water, but forgot it, and we went off with- 


out a drop. We were going down what was 
called the Eidge Road, along the divide be 
tween Elk and Elder creeks, and hoped to 
reach the crossing of the Cheyenne at Smith- 
ville Post-office that evening, and get on the 
Reservation the next morning. In half an 
hour we passed some trees which marked the 
site of the Washday Springs, but there was no 
house there, nor had we seen one at eleven 
o clock. We met an Indian on foot, and Jack 
said to him : 

"Where can we get some water ?" 

The Indian shook his head. "Cheyenne 
River," he replied. 

"Isn t there any this side ?" 

" No," with another jerk of the head. Then 
he stalked on. 

"Yes, and the Indian s right, I ll warrant," 
exclaimed Jack. " i Blenty vaters, indeed ! 
Why, that Dutchman doesn t know enough to 
ache when he s hurt." 

"Well, we re in for it," said I. "We 
can t go back. Maybe it 11 rain," though 
there was not a cloud in sight, and there 
was more danger of an earthquake than of 
a shower. 



So we went on, and a little after dark wound 
down among the black baked bluffs to the 
crossing, without any of us having had a drop 
to drink since before sunrise. After we had 
"lowered the river six inches," as Jack de 
clared, we went into camp. 

We were up early in the morning, and Jack 
went down the river with his gun and got a 
brace of grouse. There was one house near 
the crossing, which was the post-office. The 
man who lived there told us it was a hundred 
and twenty-five miles across the Eeservation 
to Pierre, and twenty miles to Peno Hill, the 
first station at which we should find any one. 
The ford was deep, the water coming up to the 
wagon-box, and there was ice along the edges 
of the river. It was a fine clear day, however, 
and the cold did not trouble us much. We 
wound up among the bluffs on the other side 
of the river, and at the top had our last sight 
of the Black Hills. We went on across the 
rolling prairie, black as ink, as the grass had 
all been burned off, and reached Peno Hill at 
a little after noon. There was a rough board 
building, one end of it a house and the other a 
barn. All of the stage stations were built after 


this plan. We camped here for dinner, and 
pressed on to reach Grizzly Shaw s for the night. 
About the middle of the afternoon we passed 
Bad River Station,, kept by one Mexican Ed. 

" I m going to watch and see if he runs when 
he sees Snoozer," said Ollie. Snoozer had in 
sisted on walking most of the time since his 
adventure with the horse-thieves ; but, greatly 
to Ollie s disappointment, Mexican Ed showed 
no signs of fear even when Snoozer went so far 
as to growl at him. 

As it grew dark we passed among the Grind 
stone Buttes several small hills. A prairie 
fire was burning among them, and lit up the 
road for us. AVe came to Shaw s at last, and 
went into camp. We visited the house before 
we went to bed, and found that Shaw was griz 
zly enough to justify his name, and that he had 
a family consisting of a wife and daughter and 
two grandchildren. 

"Pierre is our post-office," said Shaw, 
"eighty-five miles away/ 

" The postman doesn t bring out your letters, 
then ?" returned Jack. 

"We ain t_much troubled with postmen, 
nor policemen, nor hand - organ men, nor no 


such tilings," answered Shaw. "Still, once 
in a while a sheriff goes by looking for some 

We told him of our experience with thieves, 
and he said : 

"It s a wonder they didn t get your pony. 
There s lots of em hanging about the edge of 
the Reserve, because it s a good place for em 
to hide." 

"Must make a very pleasant little walk 
down to the post-office when you want to mail 
a letter/ said Jack, after we got back to the 
wagon "eighty-five miles. And think of get 
ting there, and finding that you had left the 
letter on the hall table, and having to go 
back I" 

We were off again the next morning, as usual. 
At noon we stopped at Mitchell Creek, where 
we found another family, including a little 
girl five or six years old, who carried her doll 
in a shawl on her back, as she had seen the 
Indian women carry their babies. AVe had in 
tended to reach Plum Creek for the night, but 
got on slower than we expected, owing partly 
to a strong head-wind, so darkness overtook us 
at Frozen Man s Creek. 


"Not a very promising name for a Novem 
ber camping - place/ said Jack, "but I guess 
we ll have to stop. I don t believe it s cold 
enough to freeze anybody to-night." 

There was no house here, but there was 
water, and plenty of tall, dry grass, so it made 
a good place for us to stop. Frozen Man s 
Creek, as well as all the others, was a branch 
of the Bad River, which flowed parallel with 
the trail to the Missouri. We camped just 
east of the creek. The grass was so high that 
we feared to build a camp-fire, and cooked 
supper in the wagon. 

(( I m glad we ve got out of the burned 
region," said Jack. "It s dismal, and I like 
to~ hear the wind cutting through the dry 
grass with its sharp swish." 

There was a heavy wind blowing from the 
southeast, but we turned the rear of the wagon 
in that direction, saw that the brake was firmly 
on, and went to bed feeling that we should not 
blow away. 

"I wonder who the poor man was that was 
frozen here ?" was the last thing Jack said be 
fore he went to sleep. "Book agent going 
out to Shaw s, perhaps, to sell him a copy of 


Every Man his Own Barber; or, How to Out 
your Own Hair with a Lawn-Mower." 

We were doomed to one more violent awaken 
ing in the old Rattletrap. At two. o clock in 
the morning I was roused up by the loud 
neighing of the horses. Old Blacky s hoarse 
voice was especially strong. As I opened my 
eyes there was a reddish glare coming through 
the white cover. "Prairie fire I" flashed into 
my mind instantly, and I gave Jack a shake 
and got out of the front of the wagon as quick 
ly as I could. I had guessed aright ; the flames 
were sweeping up the shallow valley of the 
creek before the wind as fast as a horse could 
travel. Jack came tumbling out, and we knew 
instantly what to do. We both ran a few 
yards ahead of the wagon and knelt in the 
grass, and struck matches almost at the same 
moment. Jack s went out, but mine caught, 
and a little flame leaped up, reached over and 
to both sides, and then rolled away before the 
wind, spreading wider and wider. I beat out 
the feeble blaze which tried to work to wind 
ward, and ran back to the wagon, while Jack 
went after the horses. The coming flames 
were almost upon us by this time ; but Ollie 



was out, and together, aided by the wind, we 
rolled the wagon ahead on our little new-made 
oasis of safety. Jack pulled up the pony s 
picket-pin/ and brought her on also, while the 


other horses, being loose, sought the place 
themselves. The flames came up to the edge 
of the burned place, reached over for more 
grass, did not find it, ami died out. But on 


both sides of us they rushed on, and soon over 
took our little fire,, and went on to the north 
west. The wind, first hot from the fire, now 
came cool and fresh, though full of the odor 
of the burned grass. 

"Closest call we ve had," said Jack. 

" Yes," I replied; "been pretty warm for 
us if we hadn t waked up. Our animals are 
doing better ; first Snoozer distinguished him 
self, and now I think we ve to thank Old Blacky 
mainly for this alarm." 

We were pretty well frightened, and though 
we went back to bed, I do not believe that 
any of us slept again that night. At the first 
touch of dawn we were up. As it grew light 
er, the great change in the landscape became 
apparent. The gray of the prairie was turned 
to the blackest of black. Only an occasional 
big staring buffalo skull relieved the inkiness. 
Far away to the northwest we could see a low- 
hanging cloud of smoke where the fire was still 

" Blacky ought to have a hay medal," said 
Jack at breakfast. " If I had any hay I d twist 
him up one as big as a door-mat." 

But Blacky, unlike Snoozer, seemed to have 


no pride in his achievement,, and he wandered 
all around the neighborhood trying to find a 
mouthful of grass which had been missed by 
the fire ; but he was not successful. 

" If the frozen man had been here last night 
he d have been thawed out," I said. 

"Yes ; and if Shaw had been here, what a 
good time it would have been for him to let 
the fire run over his hair and clear off the 
thickest of it !" returned Jack. 

We started on, but the long wind had brought 
bad weather, and before noon it began to 
snow. It kept up the rest of the day, and by 
night it was three or four inches deep. We 
stopped at noon at Lance Creek, and made our 
night camp at Willow Creek ; at each place 
there was a stage station in charge of one 
man. It cleared off as night came on, but the 
wind changed to the north, and it grew rapid 
ly colder. Shortly after midnight we all woke 
up with the cold. We already had everything 
piled on the beds, but as we were too cold to 
sleep, there was nothing to do but to get up 
and start the camp-fire again. This we did, 
and stayed near it the rest of the night, and in 
this way kept warm at the expense of our sleep. 



The morning was clear, but it was by far the 
coldest we had experienced. The thermometer 
at the station marked below zero at sunrise. 
We almost longed for another prairie fire. It 
grew a little warmer after we started, and at 
about eleven o clock we reached Fort Pierre, 
on the Missouri, opposite the town of Pierre. 
The ferry-boat had not yet been over for the 
day, but was expected in the afternoon. 

" You re lucky to get it at all," said a man 
to us. "It is liable to stop any day now, 
and then, till the ice is thick enough for 
crossing, there will be no way of getting 

The boat came puffing across toward night, 
and we were safely landed east of the Missouri 
once more. But we were still two hundred 
miles from home ; the country was well set 
tled most of the way, however, and we felt that 
our voyage was almost ended. Little hap 
pened worthy of mention in the week which 
it took us to traverse this distance. The 
weather became warmer and was pleasant most 
of the way. On the last night out it snowed 
again a little and grew colder. We were still 
a long day s drive from Prairie Flower, but we 


determined to make that port even if it took 
half the night. 

It was ten o clock when we saw the lights of 
the town. 

"Here we are," said Jack, "and I vote 
we ve had a good time, and that we forgive 
old Blacky his temper,, and old Browny and 
Snoozer their sleepiness, and Ollie his ques 
tions, and the rancher his general incompe 

"And the cook his pancakes !" cried Ollie. 

We stopped a little way in front of Squire 
Poinsett s grocery, and Jack picked up the hig 
revolver and fired the six shots into the air. 
The pony had come alongside the wagon,, and 
Snoozer had his head over the dash-board. 
Half a dozen people came running out, in 
cluding Grandpa Oldberry, wearing red yarn 
mittens and carrying a lantern. He held up 
the light and looked at us. 

"Well, I vum/ he exclaimed, "if it ain t 
them three pesky scallawags back safe and 
sound ! I ve said all along that varmints would 
get ye sure, and we d never see hide nor hair 
of ye again ! Well, well, well !" 

It was clear that Grandpa was just a little 


disappointed to see that his predictions hadn t 
been fulfilled. 

So the voyage of the good schooner Eattle- 
trap was ended. It had been over a thousand 
miles in length, and had lasted for more than 
two months.